Northern Irish businesses boosted by rise in new orders

Last month’s increase in new business was the sharpest since Ulster Bank survey began in 2002

Businesses in Northern Ireland have witnessed the sharpest rise in new orders in more than a decade, research has indicated.

Companies have taken on more staff to cope with the increasing demand, according to the data from Ulster Bank.

The bank’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) provides regular benchmarked snapshots of economic activity in the region.

Last month’s rise in new business was the sharpest since the survey began in 2002.

Richard Ramsey, chief economist with the Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, said: "According to the latest Ulster Bank PMI survey, the second quarter of the year is set to be even stronger than the first as far as Northern Ireland's private sector economic recovery is concerned."

He added: “Once again, the May survey is littered with a series of record highs, including firms reporting the sharpest rise in new orders since the survey began in August 2002.

“With burgeoning order books, this suggests that business activity will remain buoyant for some time yet. Meanwhile the manufacturing sector reported the fastest rate of growth in employment since the series began.”

Mr Ramsey noted that the construction sector was performing particularly strongly.

“The sector breaking the most records though is the construction industry,” he said. “In this survey, construction reports its fastest rate of growth in business activity on record, which eclipses the previous high in April by quite some margin.

“Indeed, no sector of the economy in the PMI survey’s history has reported as high a rate of growth in business activity as the construction industry in May.

“It should be noted however that no sector of the economy experienced the record rates of decline that the local construction industry has experienced. Therefore what we are seeing is a period of catch-up from very low levels of activity.

“Indeed, the official figures show that the number of housing starts was still falling in the last quarter of 2013. Nevertheless, it is still encouraging that the pace of business activity, new orders growth and job creation in the construction industry all increased at record rates last month.

“Hopefully this is signalling a much needed upturn in the house building sector which is long overdue.”