Belfast Telegraph

Province's recovery behind rest of UK and Republic

By David Elliot

Northern Ireland's economy is being left behind by the rest of the UK and the Republic, according to a report released today by Ulster Bank.

It's latest PMI report showed output from the private sector here declined for the fourth consecutive month in March, and at the fastest rate in nearly three years.

The survey, produced by Markit for the bank, shows every other region of the UK and the Republic saw an expansion in private sector output.

"The latest PMI survey for Northern Ireland is not encouraging," Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist Northern Ireland for Ulster Bank said. "There were steep falls in both business output and new orders, with private sector firms indicating that they have reduced employment levels for the fourth month in a row."

He said some firms were swimming against the tide but the overall trend of output contraction is overbearing.

"The problem is there are around twice as many firms signalling declines. As a result, there are insufficient drivers of growth to stabilise the local economy at present."

Not one of the four main sectors in Northern Ireland managed to grow, with construction once again suffering the steepest slide and the high street bearing the brunt of the economic malaise.

"Northern Ireland's retailers have witnessed a sharp reversal in their fortunes following a brief period of growth over Christmas and the New Year," Mr Ramsey said.

"Meanwhile, the wider service sector posted a marked decline in new business and activity in March, although the pace of job losses has almost stabilised.

"It will be interesting to see whether the anticipated surge in tourist numbers in the year ahead will feed through into the wider service sector and offset some of the ongoing service sector decline."

On a positive note, the growth witnessed elsewhere in the UK and the Republic should bode well for the future.

" Ultimately, improvements in these two economies, if sustained, will have a positive influence on the performance of the Northern Ireland economy."