Construction activity picks up while NI economy continues to splutter

Ulster Bank index finds activity has expanded in each of the past 20 months

Ulster Bank's purchasing managers index (PMI) for April confirmed that the construction sector is on the mend, with new orders and employment rising fast over previous months.

The index rose “sharply”, the bank said, to 57.2 in April from 52.9 the previous month.

“Activity has now expanded in each of the past 20 months, with improving client confidence and the securing of new business reportedly behind the rise,” said the bank.

The bank said that for the first time in three months, all three monitored construction categories – housing, commercial and civil engineering – recorded increases in activity. Most of the increases came in housing and commercial, it said.

Employment growth quickened to the fastest level since January, and construction companies overall have raised employment continuously since September 2013.

Meanwhile, Ulster Bank's PMI for April for the Northern Ireland economy "suggests a modest deterioration in business conditions . . . as output and new orders declined following growth in March".

Companies in the NI private sector continued to add jobs, however, while the rate of cost inflation remained “modest”.