Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland private sector growth bucks the UK trend by hitting 40-month high

Richard Ramsey, chief economist Northern Ireland at the Ulster Bank
Richard Ramsey, chief economist Northern Ireland at the Ulster Bank
Emma Deighan

By Emma Deighan

Northern Ireland is bucking the UK trend as the pace of growth in the private sector here hits a 40-month high, according to a key survey today.

The Ulster Bank’s Purchasing Manager’s Index said NI’s growth made it the only positive performing region in the UK.

Increases were recorded across all four monitored sectors, led by retail, according to the report.

And expansion of new business and improving client demand both contributed to improving output.

New orders grew and firms responded to higher workloads by taking on additional staff —and while the rate of job creation was slower than it was in December, it was still above the UK average.

Richard Ramsey, chief economist Northern Ireland at the Ulster Bank, said the outside environment was also helping the province, even if it was not reflected in UK growth.

“Moving into 2018 the external economic environment has continued to strengthen,” he said.

“Global output growth hit a 40-month high in January. Meanwhile, firms in the eurozone posted their fastest rate of growth in almost 11-and-a-half years.

“This positive backdrop jars with the latest UK PMIs, with the pace of growth decelerating. The overall UK PMI eased to a 17-month low in January.”

The figures put NI more in line with global and eurozone businesses, added Mr Ramsey.

He also said the marked acceleration in output was due largely to the construction and services sectors.

Construction activity accelerated to a 39-month high in January, according to the index, its sixth successive month of expansion, while orders accelerated to a 22-month high.

And the services sector growth hit a 44-month high. Retail also grew at its fastest for four years, he said.

Manufacturing was the one sector to report a slowdown in January, though activity was still “robust”.

He added: “According to the PMI, January represented the best start to a year amongst Northern Ireland’s private sector since 2007. Back then, the challenges that lay ahead were largely unseen and unknown.

“In contrast, today’s geopolitical risks, fiscal challenges and ongoing Brexit uncertainty have certainly been well flagged. Despite these challenges, firms remain upbeat about the year ahead and the most optimistic since May 2017.”

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