Belfast Telegraph

Output up among Northern Ireland firms but below the national average

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland business output led by the manufacturing sector has increased as the rate of job creation hits a 13-month high. That's according to the latest purchasing managers' index (PMI) with Ulster Bank, for May.

Firms here saw a pick-up in new order growth, and overall, business activity was up at 53.5, where 50 represents no change.

However, growth eased slightly from the previous month.

But Northern Ireland's output was weaker than the UK average. And while manufacturing, services and construction saw increases, retail activity "stagnated".

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said that in the 11 months which have passed since the EU vote the "rate of private sector growth amongst local firms has been broadly in line with the growth rate in the 11 months prior to the vote".

"However, in May, Northern Ireland, like most other regions of the UK, saw a slowdown.

"Business activity expanded, as it has expanded in each of the last eight months, but the rate of expansion remained below the average rate that prevailed before the downturn.

"New orders though picked up, with export demand strongest. Indeed, order books from export markets have been expanding at a faster rate than the pre-downturn long-term average in each of the last eight months.

"The exchange rate has been a factor behind Northern Ireland's strong export performance since last autumn. But sterling weakness has also pushed up input costs alongside the price of goods and services."

Firms were optimistic about the future, but Mr Ramsey said: "Political developments here and abroad will have a significant bearing on this going forward."

Belfast Telegraph