Belfast Telegraph

Weather helps to warm Northern Ireland's economic outlook

First rise in staffing levels for six months as sectors increase output


The heatwave has been credited for the biggest boost to Northern Ireland business activity in almost six years – with more good news expected to come.

The latest Ulster Bank Northern Purchase Manager's Index showed that July saw the first rise in staffing levels for six months thanks to the rise in orders.

All four sectors posted increases in output, led by manufacturing and growth of new business accelerated to the strongest since August 2007.

The recent heatwave was also mentioned as having contributed to rising activity.

Richard Ramsey, chief economist for Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, said that there had been an economic as well as a literal heatwave in July.

"Last week marked the sixth anniversary of the official start of the credit crunch," he said.

"During the 71 months that have elapsed since then, the Northern Ireland PMI has been a reliable, albeit gloomy, barometer of economic conditions for local firms.

"Positives, as far as the PMI is concerned, had been in short supply over this period. However, the July 2013 survey is littered with positives.

"Business activity, new orders, exports and employment all increased in July. Overall, almost one-third of firms surveyed reported a rise in activity last month.

"Local firms saw business activity increase at its fastest rate in 70 months with all sectors of the economy experiencing robust rates of growth. The better weather conditions were cited as one factor while improved client confidence across the UK was another. The surge in new business orders in July suggests business activity should remain buoyant in the near term. Export orders also increased for the first time since January 2008.

"At a sector level, it is particularly encouraging to see the construction sector report a significant pick-up in activity and new orders alongside some employment gains.

"Meanwhile, the retail sector also reported a strong July in what has otherwise been a challenging year.

"August should also be a good month for retailers and the wider hospitality industry with the World Police and Fire Games one of the key events in Northern Ireland.

"Whilst the latest survey makes for very pleasant reading it is important not to get carried away. Like economies elsewhere, Northern Ireland requires a sustained period of growth over the months and years ahead.

"Last week's guidance by the Bank of England that interest rates could remain at their record lows for the next three years underscores the fact that the UK recovery, or indeed a Northern Ireland one, is by no means guaranteed in the near-term. "

The good news was backed by another report which showed that Britain exported a record £78.4bn of goods between April and June thanks to surging demand from countries outside Europe in the latest sign that the recovery is taking hold.

The all-time high for the second quarter came after a record-breaking performance in June, with exports of £26.9bn, up by £1.3bn from May, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This saw the country's trade deficit on goods – the balance between imports and exports – narrow to £8.1bn in June from £8.7bn in May.


Belfast Telegraph