A positive business outlook has returned to the Northern Ireland private sector for the first time in nine months, a survey has revealed.
Amid the Covid-19, business output, sales and sentiment had fallen to record lows.
And while lockdown say a drop in overall average output in November, business sentiment turned positive for the first time since the beginning of the crisis, according to the Ulster Bank purchasing managers’ index.
But overall output and orders among firms here fell at the fastest and joint-fastest rates of all the UK regions.
“Demand from export markets (notably the Republic of Ireland) continues to weaken at a much faster pace than the domestic market ,” Ulster Bank chief economist, Richard Ramsey, said.
Meanwhile, employment levels also fell during November, while inflationary pressures increased.
“Not surprisingly, renewed containment measures in November saw local private sector output contract at a significant rate, albeit not on the scale witnessed between March and June,” he said.
Not surprisingly, renewed containment measures in November saw local private sector output contract at a significant rate, albeit not on the scale witnessed between March and June.
“The deterioration in business conditions was most marked within services and retail. Both sectors were particularly impacted by Covid-19 restrictions and recorded rapid rates of decline in output, orders and employment.
“Once again construction posted the fastest rate of output growth of all the sectors, marginally ahead of manufacturing.
“However, the rates of expansion were modest and represented a marked slowing from construction’s recent spurt of activity. Local construction firms continue to experience the steepest rises in input costs and as a result are raising prices at their fastest pace since January 2019.”
But he says while business conditions remain challenging the latest survey “highlighted that there is some optimism returning”.
“The arrival of a range of vaccines, which are now being rolled out, suggests that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
“Indeed, business sentiment turned positive for the first time since February. Manufacturing firms are the most bullish about output growth in 12 months’ time, followed by construction.
“However, services and retail remain pessimistic about the year ahead. With the end of the Brexit transition rapidly approaching, the implications of a UK-EU deal/no deal will have a major bearing on business performance and confidence in 2021 and beyond.”