Northern Ireland Economic Growth Extends To Entire Year

Northern Ireland’s economy has been continually growing for a year, according to the latest figures.

The closely watched Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) produced for Ulster Bank saw a further solid increase in output as new work continues to build.

But rates of expansion eased from the previous month.

And the introduction of the national living wage was reported to have contributed to a quicker rate of cost inflation, with firms raising their output prices modestly.

Activity in the private sector has now risen on a monthly basis throughout the past year.

As has been the case in three successive months, Northern Ireland output rose at a faster pace than seen across the UK as a whole.

Higher output requirements led to a further increase in employment at companies in Northern Ireland, extending the current sequence of growth to 15 months. And he rate of job creation accelerated to a three-month high.

Ulster Bank’s chief economist in the north Richard Ramsey said: “While the rates of expansion in business activity and new orders eased relative to the 18-month highs recorded in March, the pace of growth remained relatively strong.

“Furthermore, the rates of growth in new orders, business activity and employment amongst local firms exceeded the UK average. The UK’s private sector output expanded at its weakest growth rate in three years in April with the services and construction industries posting subdued rates of activity.

“Meanwhile UK manufacturing fell into contraction territory for the first time in over three years. The UK economic slowdown is somewhat concerning and if sustained will impact on Northern Ireland in due course.”

And there was further good news in the data, he said.

“Whilst Northern Ireland’s private sector reported a moderation in the rates of growth in new orders and business activity, three other indicators saw a pick-up in their respective growth rates.

“The pace of job creation accelerated in April with all sectors increasing their staffing levels. Manufacturing’s seven month sequence of job losses also came to an end.

“Export orders expanded at their fastest rate in twenty one months, buoyed up by a competitive sterling / euro exchange rate and strong demand from the Republic.

“However, sterling weakness is a double-edged sword with rising import prices contributing to a marked acceleration in input cost inflation in April.

“Input cost inflation hit a two-year high in April due to the weakness of sterling, higher fuel costs and the introduction of the National Living Wage. The services sector reported the highest rates of input cost inflation in April.

“Northern Ireland’s growth performance remains reliant on services and retail. Retailers continue to report the fastest rates of job creation.

“Last month the construction sector joined manufacturing in contraction territory. This is evidence of the slowdown in the UK construction market impacting on local firms working in the GB market.

“Construction output and new orders contracted in April for the first time in eight months. The reversal in fortunes for construction orders was quite stark, moving from healthy rates of growth in March to rapid rates of decline in April.”