Belfast Telegraph

Firms report third month of growth

Businesses in Northern Ireland are experiencing somewhat of an Indian summer with growth recorded for a third month in succession, figures have indicated.

Firm also took on more staff for the third month in a row in September, according to the new data.

The latest indications of the beginnings of a private sector recovery were outlined in the Ulster Bank's Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), which provides a bench-marked assessment of economic activity in Northern Ireland every month.

Richard Ramsey, economist for Ulster Bank, outlined the details of the findings.

"As far as the latest PMI is concerned, Northern Ireland companies appear to be experiencing something of an Indian summer, with the pace of business activity accelerating for the third successive month in September," he said.

"The retail, construction and manufacturing sectors all posted faster rates of growth in activity, which helped push the overall business activity index to its highest level in more than six years.

"The rate at which new business is coming in is also still growing, however not as strongly as it was, due to an easing of new orders in the services sector.

"In terms of employment, a significant slowdown in the rate of job creation within the services and manufacturing industries was largely offset by a pick-up in employment growth within construction and retail. It was the first month in the series history that all four sectors simultaneously recorded employment growth."

Mr Ramsey said the construction industry, which has arguably been hit hardest during the recession, was showing signs of revival.

"According to the official quarterly output and employment surveys, Northern Ireland's construction industry was the first sector to enter recession and remains the last to exit," he said.

"However, the PMI survey, which has been a reliable indicator of the local construction industry's performance to date, suggests that the sector has finally boarded the recovery train.

"Indeed, the September survey represents the best set of monthly figures within the quarter, with a marked acceleration in construction activity and a pick-up in new orders and employment levels. Furthermore, construction firms were able to raise prices for the first time in the series history.

"Improving conditions within the construction sectors in the UK and Republic of Ireland offer further optimism for local construction and manufacturing firms operating in, or supplying to these markets.

"House building in Great Britain is now growing at its fastest rate in almost 10 years. Meanwhile last month saw the equivalent sector in the Republic of Ireland post its fastest rate of growth in almost eight years. This helped bring to an end 75 months of contraction within the Republic of Ireland's wider construction industry."

Mr Ramsey noted that not all the data was positive, with inflation pressures having an impact on costs.

"Overall, the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI for September is a positive one," he said.

"However, it is not an entirely rosy picture as inflation pressures picked up, with the survey recording the fastest rate of growth in input cost inflation since April 2012.

"Increased salary payments were quoted as one source of this inflationary pressure, and as the recovery takes hold, this trend is likely to continue."

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