Northern Ireland business activity rises for first time since 2007

Ulster Bank research suggests NI firms benefited from growth in wider UK market

Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank’s chief economist in Northern Ireland, the bank’s latest purchasing managers’ index report suggests the North may have experienced “something of an economic heatwave” last month. Photograph: PA/Peter Houlihan

Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank’s chief economist in Northern Ireland, the bank’s latest purchasing managers’ index report suggests the North may have experienced “something of an economic heatwave” last month. Photograph: PA/Peter Houlihan

Mon, Aug 12, 2013, 01:00


Business activity in the North rose last month for the first time in nearly six years, delivering a welcome confidence boost for the local economy during July, according to new research from Ulster Bank.

The bank’s latest purchasing managers’ index (PMI) report shows that Northern Ireland firms won substantial new orders last month at a rate not recorded since August 2007 and in turn recruited extra staff to cope.

The Ulster Bank report, which monitors the health of the private sector in Northern Ireland, suggests that local firms strongly benefited from substantial growth in the UK market as a whole.

Although the UK market was the key source of growth, some Northern Ireland firms also reported a rise in new business from abroad which signalled the first increase in export orders in five years.

Manufacturing firms netted the highest percentage of new business wins last month but the construction, retail and service sectors also secured important new orders.


Higher workloads
The PMI report shows that as a result of higher workloads, jobs were created in the construction, manufacturing and service sectors, while the retail sector showed a slight reduction in employment levels.

Cost inflation also remained a major issue for local businesses in every sector, particularly in relation to higher fuel and raw materials prices.

According to Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank’s chief economist in Northern Ireland, the report suggests that the North may have experienced “something of an economic heatwave” last month.


Rise in activity
“Almost one-third of firms surveyed reported a rise in activity last month,” Mr Ramsey said. “Local firms saw business activity increase at its fastest rate in 70 months with all sectors of the economy experiencing robust rates of growth.

“The better weather was cited as one factor while improved client confidence across the UK was another. The surge in new business orders in July suggests business activity should remain buoyant in the near term.”

He warned though that like economies elsewhere, Northern Ireland requires a “sustained period of growth” over the months and years ahead.