Posted on Sunday 10 November 2013 by Ulster Business

Richard Ramsey

Output from private sector firms rose for the fourth consecutive month in October as companies also recorded a solid rise in employment, according to the latest Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI report.

The monthly report, which is produced for Ulster Bank by Markit, showed that a rise in new business had supported the strongest increase in employment in more than six years.

It is the latest in a run of positive data to be released over the past few months, which has raised hopes that the Northern Ireland economy is on the up.

The report features survey data collected from companies in the manufacturing, service, construction and retail/wholesale sectors – all of which posted higher activity linked to new orders in October.

During the month higher workloads also fed through to rises in both backlogs of work and employment. But although staffing levels increased for the fourth consecutive month, the rate of job creation at Northern Ireland companies was slower than recorded across the UK economy as a whole.

Richard Ramsey, the Ulster Bank's Chief Economist in Northern Ireland (pictured), said: "Northern Ireland's private sector firms have started the fourth quarter the way they finished the third quarter with business activity, new orders and employment all on the rise. Whilst the pace of business activity eased relative to the September survey, local firms still posted a robust rate of growth last month.

"Meanwhile the rate of growth in new orders held steady which should provide momentum going into 2014. Furthermore, the significant acceleration in output, new orders and employment in the UK and the Republic of Ireland are also encouraging from a Northern Ireland perspective; as our firms are exposed to the economic fortunes of these two economies more so than any other. As far as the October PMIs were concerned, the UK and the Republic of Ireland were two of the best performing economies worldwide."

The economist noted that the recovery in Northern Ireland remained broad-based and highlighted that construction had posted its fastest rate of growth in output and employment since the survey began.

He also said that the level of backlogs – work not yet started or completed – increased at the fastest rate since August 2007.

"This is both significant and encouraging as rising backlogs of work are invariably a trigger for firms to hire more staff. Indeed, rising employment was particularly evident in the latest survey with Northern Ireland firms reporting the sharpest increase in staffing levels since August 2007. All sectors reported a marked pick-up in employment growth in October relative to September," said Ramsey.

"Rising employment is one knock-on effect of the improving business conditions. A return in pricing power is another. Last month saw local firms raise the price of their goods and services at their fastest rate in over five years. For many firms this will help restore profit margins after years when passing on price rises to customers was simply not an option."



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