New report suggests North’s economy heading towards a slowdown

Private sector in North continued to grow in February, but at a much slower pace

Although both high streets and retail parks both recorded footfall growth of 1.9%, NIRC director Aodhán Connolly said the latest figures were “not a cause for celebration”

Although both high streets and retail parks both recorded footfall growth of 1.9%, NIRC director Aodhán Connolly said the latest figures were “not a cause for celebration”

 

A fall-off in new orders and jobs growth plus a dip in confidence levels last month all point to the North’s economy heading towards a slowdown, a new report suggests.

The latest Ulster Bank Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), published on Monday, shows that although the private sector in the North continued to grow during February, it was at a much slower pace than before and against the backdrop of “intensified” inflationary pressures.

The report highlights that while manufacturing in the North grew at its fastest pace in almost 3½ years, other sectors, particularly services and construction, struggled with a slowdown in orders.

And the relative strength of manufacturing is not reflected in the pace of job-creation, although overall February did mark the 37th successive month that Northern Ireland businesses increased their workforce numbers.

According to Richard Ramsey, chief economist Northern Ireland at Ulster Bank, there were underlying tensions even as private sector firms continued to enjoy “favourable” business conditions last month.

“Confidence about the year ahead, new orders and employment all fell to seven-month lows in February,” he noted. “Meanwhile inflationary pressures intensified again, with input costs rising at their fastest rate in nine months. Retailers continue to bear the brunt of these cost and price increases.”

Shopper footfall

Separately,the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium/Springboard footfall monitor on Monday charted a 0.3 per cent increase in shopper footfall during the four weeks to February 24th. That effectively brings the shutters down on eight months of consecutive decline in shopper numbers.

However, although both high streets and retail parks both recorded footfall growth of 1.9 per cent, NIRC director Aodhán Connolly said the latest figures were “not a cause for celebration”.

“Our 12-month average is -2.3 per cent decline in footfall, and our vacancy rate continues to be the highest in the UK by some margin.”