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Northern Ireland business activity on the up before referendum, says survey

By Margaret Canning

Good weather contributed to increased business activity in the weeks before the EU referendum, with employment rising more steeply than the UK average, a major survey said today.


The Ulster Bank purchasing managers' index said June was the 14th month in a row in which companies recorded an increase in new orders. But while overall growth was up on May, it was still below healthier levels recorded at the beginning of the year, and still well below the average recorded before 2009.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said most responses had been given before the EU referendum.

"Since then, economists have slashed their growth forecasts for the UK economy," he said.

"The consensus opinion is for marginal rates of growth next year, with an increasing number of economists expecting the UK economy to enter recession.

"Given its reliance on Great Britain, Northern Ireland would be very likely to follow suit."

But the findings for the month of June were largely positive. Output was up in manufacturing for the first time in three months, while new orders in the sector picked up at the fastest pace since last year.

Output was also up in retail and services -though construction activity was down. New business fell in the retail and construction sectors, with fresh orders for retail down for the first time in 2016 so far.

June was also the 17th month in a row of rising employment in companies, and staff levels were going up at a faster pace. Companies said higher demand was the main reason for the increase. All sectors saw an increase in hiring, with manufacturing and construction taking on new people in June after a slump in jobs during May.

Belfast Telegraph