Belfast Telegraph

Momentum still slow as Northern Ireland private sector feels the pinch, Ulster Bank Purchase Managers Index reveals

By Clare Weir

Northern Ireland firms have shown the weakest signs of growth since the beginning of the economic recovery in mid-2013, according to a new report.

The latest Purchase Managers Index produced for Ulster Bank by research firm Markit has shown a loss of momentum in private sector as output, new orders and employment all rose at a slower pace in November.

Richard Ramsey, chief economist for Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, said that while the construction, manufacturing and retail sectors slowed, the services sector remained buoyant.

"While Northern Ireland's private sector recovery extended to 17 months in November, the overall theme is one of an economic slowdown," he said.

"Northern Ireland's slowdown is also more marked than the rest of the UK, which reported an acceleration in the rates of growth in business activity, new business and employment last month.

"Indeed, the differential between the local and national private sector growth rates is at its widest since the local private sector recovery began in mid-2013.

"It is noted that Northern Ireland's firms also posted the weakest rates of output and employment growth of all the UK regions in November."

Mr Ramsey said that manufacturers here signalled their weakest rates of growth in business activity and new orders since mid-2013 with local firms barely adding to their staffing levels in November.

"Manufacturing is the most export-intensive sector and is therefore more exposed to the economic conditions in external markets," he said.

"While demand appears to be waning for manufacturing goods, local manufacturing firms are benefiting from reduced input cost inflation, rising at its weakest rate since June 2009. Local firms are responding to this by lowering their prices at the fastest rate since August 2012."

But he added that the services industry was the one sector that reported a rise in business activity.

He said: "Overall, it is encouraging that Northern Ireland's recovery continues. However, as we enter 2015 there is perhaps not as much momentum as we would like, particularly given the challenging public expenditure environment that lies ahead."

Belfast Telegraph