Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Private sector sees solid growth but still lags behind rest of UK

By John Mulgrew

The private sector in Northern Ireland has enjoyed another solid month of business with a sharp rise in new orders, it's been revealed.

The latest Ulster Bank purchasing managers' index for October, shows that, despite on-going inflationary pressures, Northern Ireland's private sector continued to report expansion in activity, new orders, and employment, albeit at a slower rate.

But Northern Ireland's economic output continues to lag behind the UK average, and was outpaced by most other regions, aside from Scotland.

"This was in contrast to the UK picture where there was an acceleration in activity across most regions," Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said.

"As a result, Northern Ireland has slipped down the business activity growth table, with only Scotland now reporting a weaker rate of growth.

"This UK strength is reflected in the rate at which new orders are coming in at Northern Ireland firms; with overall new orders growth remaining robust, despite export orders easing back."

Overall, the retail sector performed strongest for the second month in a row.

Meanwhile, growth in manufacturing growth slowed to its lowest level since July. But the construction sector saw orders hit a 19-month high.

Employment levels were also up last month, albeit at a slower rate. It was buoyed by strong construction job creation - growing at its fastest rate in 41 months.

However, the rate of input cost inflation remained sharp in October, with prices "again increasing as a result of sterling weakness", the report said.

"At a sectoral level, retail was the fastest growing for the second month in a row, with the construction industry also reporting much-improved business conditions," Mr Ramsey said.

"Output, new orders and employment also grew at faster rates in the sector, with employment growing at its fastest rate in 41 months.

"There were also some signs of encouragement for local manufacturing, with new orders growth rising to its highest level in over three years.

"Cost pressures remain the key challenge, with headline inflation remaining elevated largely due to rising commodity and fuel prices."

Belfast Telegraph

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