Belfast Telegraph

Higher output sees staff hired at the fastest rate in 14 months

By John Mulgrew

Businesses are hiring at the fastest rate in more than a year, an economic survey has shown.

But areas such as manufacturing, which last month hemorrhaged more than 1,100 jobs, have suffered a major slump - with production falling for the first time in 10 months.

That's according to the Ulster Bank's latest purchasing managers index (PMI) for November.

Overall, Northern Ireland's private sector saw a bump in November, with output, new orders and job levels rising at faster rates than in the previous month.

Staffing levels rose at the fastest pace in 14 months during November, due to higher output.

That was recorded across all sectors, except manufacturing, where job cuts were recorded for the third month running.

New export orders were unchanged in November - ending a two-month period of expansion.

But despite an overall improvement, Northern Ireland continues to lag behind the rest of the UK, and the Republic.

Only two regions, the North East and North West of England, recorded lower overall business activity levels.

Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank chief economist, said: "Northern Ireland's private sector reported a notable improvement in business conditions in November.

"The pace of growth in business activity and new orders accelerated relative to the modest levels of expansion recorded in October."

But he said the rates of growth "remain below the pre-recession historical average".

"Meanwhile, firms increased their staffing levels at their fastest rate in 14 months," he added. "Furthermore, the pace of employment growth continues to rise at a faster rate than the pre-downturn long-term average."

He said the overall headline figures paint a "mixed" picture.

"The overall pick-up in the rate of growth in business activity, new orders and employment was due to the services and construction industries.

"The latter posted its strongest rates of growth in output and new orders in over a year.

"The improvement in services and construction firms concealed a slowdown in retail sales and outright contraction within manufacturing.

"Retail sales are easing from a period of very strong growth. However, the performance of the manufacturing sector is of more concern, with output, new orders and employment all falling in November."

Belfast Telegraph