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Sunlit uplands of sustained recovery heave into view...


Belfast as viewed from Divis.

Belfast as viewed from Divis.

Belfast as viewed from Divis.

Business activity as measured in a monthly barometer has risen at the highest rate since the survey began back in 2002 in yet another sign that a recovery is underway.

The Ulster Bank's purchase manager's index today shows that there were record rises in both output and new orders in April and employment also continued to increase sharply.

The news came after around 2,200 new jobs were created in the month of April alone.

That figure has now risen to over 3,000 with announcements from companies like Concentrix, E&Y, Schrader Electronics and Capita Managed IT Services in recent weeks.

Output at companies in Northern Ireland rose for the 10th consecutive month to signal the fastest expansion since the survey began in August 2002.

Sharper rises in activity were seen across three of the four monitored sectors, with the fastest expansion at services companies.

Companies in Northern Ireland responded to strong rises in workloads by continuing to take on extra staff during the month.

Retail posted the fastest rise in employment, with the slowest increase in the construction sector.

The rate of input price inflation in Northern Ireland remained much faster than the UK average, with a number of panellists indicating that higher salary payments had been a key driver of increased input costs.

Richard Ramsey, chief economist with Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, said that the growth rates compared favourably with the UK average.

"The latest surge in business activity and new orders growth is primarily due to improvements within the Northern Ireland and UK markets," he said.

"In turn, this has been linked to growing confidence in the economic outlook and housing markets of these two economies.

"Meanwhile, new export orders posted their 10th successive month of growth in April.

"However, the pace of this growth eased and remained relatively subdued.

"This is despite the ongoing economic recovery in Northern Ireland's largest export market – the Republic of Ireland.

"All sectors, bar retail, saw the pace of growth in business activity accelerate in April.

"However, construction and the services sector were the star performers and reported extremely strong rates of growth.

"This trend looks set to continue with both services and construction posting record growth rates in new orders in April.

"In turn, this should lead to further employment growth in the months ahead. While manufacturing didn't post any records last month, the sector continues to experience healthy rates of growth in output, new orders and employment.

"Despite Northern Ireland's outperformance of the UK in the latest survey in some of the key indicators, it should be remembered that Northern Ireland's economic recovery, in terms of both output and employment, has lagged significantly behind that of the UK.

"Therefore, the local economy still faces a prolonged period of catch-up in the months and years ahead.

"However, it is encouraging to see that the recovery is gaining momentum."


PMI surveys are monthly surveys of companies which provide an advance indication of what is happening in the private sector economy by tracking variables such as output, new orders, employment and prices across both manufacturing and service sectors.

The PMI surveys are based on facts and are the first indicators of economic conditions each month.

Belfast Telegraph