Posted on Monday 9 June 2014 by Ulster Business

Ulster Bank: bulging order books boost Northern Ireland economy

The construction industry was one of the top performing sectors in May

Activity in the Northern Ireland economy grew again last month as a flood of new orders kept businesses busy, according to a new survey released by Ulster Bank.

Its Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for May found companies here experienced the biggest boost to new business since the survey was started back in 2002.

Bulging order books mean the upward momentum should continue for some time to come, building on a number of other firsts.

May also saw the manufacturing sector see the fastest rate of growth in employment since the PMI began while the construction sector reported the fastest rate of growth in business activity on record.

The recovery for the latter sector needs to be put into context, however.

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

He said the positive result signals an upturn for the housing sector but pointed out the number of housing starts in Northern Ireland was still falling in the last quarter of 2013.

And when it comes to export, the survey also reveals a strengthening sector.

"To date, Northern Ireland's economic recovery has largely been driven by the robust recovery in Great Britain," Mr Ramsey said. "This has been evident with new orders growth, which includes both domestic bound sales and exports, consistently outperforming the export orders growth.

"However, it is encouraging to note that last month firms reported their fastest rate of growth in export orders since the credit crunch first began in August 2007. This suggests that improvements in our largest export market – the Republic of Ireland – are feeding through to Northern Ireland businesses."

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