Economy on rise as PMI shows increase in new jobs for Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland economy grew again last month with the jobs market showing the most encouraging signs of improvement in six years, according to the latest Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) report from Ulster Bank.
It showed companies here increased their staffing levels at the fastest rate since the beginning of the credit crunch in August 2007, led mostly by the retail and wider services sector.
The December survey, produced by Markit, extended the recent run of positive news for the economy with a strong rise in new orders, an increase in workloads and an increase in both input costs and output prices.
Economist Richard Ramsey said the Northern Ireland economy grew by 1% in real terms in 2013 and is expected to grow by 1.5% this year.
"The Northern Ireland economy ended 2013 in a lot better shape than it began the year," he said.
"During the first half of 2013 local firms reported falling levels of output, orders, exports and employment. However, the summer heralded the start of a strong, broad based recovery with all sectors experiencing a significant improvement in these indicators."
That bodes well for this year, although Mr Ramsey pointed out there is still room for caution.
"The road ahead looks much more promising than it did this time last year," he said. "However, the economy is not without significant challenges.
"Inflationary pressures are a growing concern across all sectors. Rising wage costs, a sign of economic recovery as pay rises return, is cited as a factor.
"That said, unlike this time last year, firms now have a degree of pricing power and can pass some costs onto their customers."