Belfast Telegraph

More pain for private sector as slump hits 58 months

September marked the 58th successive month of decline for the private sector in Northern Ireland - and there's no end in sight to the economic gloom.

Firms signalled the decline was mainly due to fewer new business orders and decreased client demand, according to Ulster Bank's monthly purchasing managers' index (PMI).

Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank chief economist, said: "2012 is set to mark Northern Ireland's fifth consecutive year of private sector contraction in terms of output and employment levels.

"Like the eurozone, all sectors within Northern Ireland's private sector posted further declines in output in September.

"Local manufacturing firms saw the pace of decline in new orders ease slightly but following some recent high-profile announcements, further falls in manufacturing orders and output can be expected for some time yet."

Job cuts were recorded for the 10th month in a row, with many businesses choosing not to replace leaving staff in order to reduce employment levels.

Larne-based engineering company FG Wilson's announcement last month that it was moving some production to China and scaling back in Northern Ireland contributed to the job cut count.

A total of 760 jobs are set to go.

According to PMI, Ulster companies here continued to suffer as input prices rose sharply in September at a faster pace than the UK average.

Businesses said increased fuel costs were the main reason for the rise in input prices.

Output prices at local firms have decreased in each month since February, suggesting an ongoing squeeze on margins.

Companies continued to lower their output prices during September amid strong competition for scarce new business.

Mr Ramsey said: "Outside of falling output, orders and employment, profitability is a growing concern.

"A number of Northern Ireland's flagship exporters have recently posted either very marginal profits or indeed losses despite rising sales and turnover."


Number of months in a row job cuts have been recorded in the province

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.