Belfast Telegraph

Business activity figures hailed

The growth in Northern Ireland business activity has hit a six-year high.

Employment levels improved, the backlog of work increased and some companies were able to raise their prices, according to a survey of private firms.

Shops had a "stellar" performance in August, the busiest month since January 2007, aided by unusually good weather, the World Police and Fire Games and the all-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil.

Ulster Bank Northern Ireland chief economist Richard Ramsey said: "It is a refreshing change to be describing business output growth at a six-year high as opposed to multi-year lows."

The recovery remains broad-based across all sectors of the economy, although the construction sector posted a fall in new orders and employment last month.

Mr Ramsey added: "It is particularly encouraging to note that the local service industry, the economy's largest sector and employer, posted a marked acceleration in output, new orders and employment growth last month.

"Indeed, Northern Ireland's service sector firms reported the fastest rates of growth in all three of these indicators since the fourth quarter of 2007.

"The significant rise in service sector employment in August meant that Northern Ireland firms reported their first back-to-back monthly rise in staffing levels since early-2008."

He said the Northern Ireland economy will remain particularly sensitive to the strength of the recoveries in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

"The local economy has undoubtedly enjoyed a good summer, the challenge is to follow this up with a good autumn, winter and spring," he added.

"This will be no easy task as there remains no shortage of economic headwinds."

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