Belfast Telegraph

Business growth in Northern Ireland experiencing a slowdown

By Rachel Martin

Business growth continues in Northern Ireland but at a slower rate than earlier this year, the latest PMI report released today has shown.

The report produced for Ulster Bank by Markit showed continued growth in productivity and new orders at the start of the fourth quarter.

As a result, companies have been increasing employment at a faster pace compared to previous months.

The rate of input cost inflation was shown to pick up slightly with higher wages thought to be a driving force.

However, contrastingly, output prices were lowered for the third successive month. Richard Ramsey, chief economist at Ulster Bank, said business growth was to be welcomed but it was not an entirely rosy picture. "There is no disguising the fact that a slowdown appears to be in train," he said.

"Last month, the pace of expansion in both business activity and new orders eased, with order books expanding at their weakest rate since April. Despite this slowdown, Northern Ireland's staffing levels increased at the fastest rate in five months."

Retail posted its sharpest rate of job creation since the survey began, while manufacturing was the only sector to record a decrease in employment, reflected in the struggles faced by Michelin, which announced last week will close its Ballymena factory with the loss of 860 jobs in 2018.

Mr Ramsey said: "The overall headlines conceal contrasting fortunes at a sector level."

Construction was the only sector to show a faster growth in business activity, new orders and employment in October.

However, Mr Ramsey added that the slowdown in manufacturing was "concerning".

He said: "New orders, an indicator of future business activity, were also broadly flat in October following contraction in September. Furthermore, manufacturing employment fell for the second consecutive month and the fastest rate of decline since June 2013. "This comes ahead of a significant number of high profile manufacturing redundancies already announced but to take place from the middle of next year.

"Overall, the Northern Ireland private sector is still experiencing growth, but at a slowing rate, and with contrasting fortunes across the sectors. There are a number of headwinds evident, and with an ongoing global slowdown impacting particularly on the manufacturing sector, these are likely to intensify into 2016 and indeed beyond."

Belfast Telegraph