Private sector activity in North continues to decline

Companies blame market uncertainty against the backdrop of Brexit

According to the Ulster Bank PMI business in the North declined across all four key sectors in December.

According to the Ulster Bank PMI business in the North declined across all four key sectors in December.

 

Private sector activity in the North continued to slip back as firms reported a further slump in new orders as the year drew to a close.

Companies blamed this on “market uncertainty” and said export customers in particular were reluctant to make spending plans against the backdrop of Brexit.

According to the Ulster Bank PMI business declined across all four key sectors in December while the rate of input cost inflation softened again and firms took the decision to lower their output prices for the first time in more than four years.

Richard Ramsey, chief economist Northern Ireland, Ulster Bank, said overall 2019 was not a good year generally for businesses in the North.

“Northern Ireland’s private sector ended the decade in the same manner as it began – like 2010, last year was one of decline and underperformance albeit not as stark as the last deep recession.

“Local firms posted the fastest rates of contraction in output and orders of all the UK regions. 2019 was also the weakest year for private sector output, orders and employment growth in seven years. Meanwhile, export orders shrank at their fastest pace since 2011.”

But the latest Ulster Bank PMI also shows that after the UK’s general election followed by predictions in rises of new orders inspired a fresh jump in confidence levels among firms in the North.

Mr Ramsey added: “Brexit uncertainty has eased and the extreme pessimism has receded. But uncertainty and potentially adverse consequences on this front remain.”