NI private sector grew faster than rest of UK in July
However, weak pound continues to create inflationary problems for many firms
Pickup in business activity in Northern Ireland during July was “broad-based”. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
New business orders from the South helped Northern Irish firms record the fastest rate of growth across the UK last month but the weak pound continued to create inflationary problems for many, latest research shows.
Ulster Bank’s Northern Ireland July PMI survey shows that companies experienced a sharp increase in export orders for the 25th month in a row, but higher input costs also forced some firms to increase their selling prices by the most in a decade.
Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank’s chief economist in Northern Ireland, said the strong performance from the North’s private sector last month could be attributed in part to the unusually warm weather during July, which helped boost orders.
Mr Ramsey said the pickup in business activity in Northern Ireland during July was “broad-based”, with all sectors, except manufacturing, reporting faster rates of output growth.
This, in turn, helped boost job creation, but the pace of recruitment eased back and was the weakest for a year. A number of businesses also warned that they had trouble recruiting “suitable staff”.
Overall the PMI survey suggests current business conditions are encouraging, but Mr Ramsey said the key question was whether it would last.
“Significantly, Northern Ireland firms are the least optimistic about business activity for the year ahead of all the UK regions,” he warned.
Separately a new report from the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium underlines why confidence in the retail sector has fallen to a 17-month low.