Posted on Monday 10 February 2014 by Ulster Business
The Northern Ireland Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) report, produced for Ulster Bank by Markit, found that the rise in new business contributed to faster growth in both output and employment.
Commenting on the survey findings, Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist Northern Ireland, Ulster Bank, said the local economy had started 2014 the way it ended 2013, with the broad-based recovery continuing to gather momentum.
"In recent months, the Ulster Bank PMI reports have been peppered with survey highs. January's report continues this theme and signals that rather than slowing down, the pace of economic recovery is in fact accelerating. All sectors of the economy reported record highs of some form or another across a range of performance indicators," he said.
"Last month local firms posted a marked acceleration in the rate of growth in business activity. Indeed, firms reported their fastest rate of growth in almost 10 years with January's growth rate exceeded on only one other occasion since the survey began. Furthermore, the pace of growth recorded by Northern Ireland's private sector exceeded their counterparts in the equivalent UK survey for the first time since October 2007."
Although all sectors reported strong rates of growth, the acceleration was largely due to improved performance by the services and manufacturing sectors. Manufacturing posted its second fastest growth rate in the survey's history.
"The forward looking new orders index suggests there is still plenty of growth in the pipeline across all sectors. A surge in new business for manufacturers and a record rise in new orders for service sector firms helped propel the overall new orders index to a record high. That is, local firms have seen their order books expand at their fastest rate since at least August 2002," said Ramsey.
"Encouragingly, the improved business conditions have translated into significant levels of job creation. Firms within manufacturing, construction and retail all increased staffing levels at a faster rate in January relative to the previous month.
Furthermore, both local manufacturers, and perhaps surprisingly retailers, increased their employment levels at the fastest rate in the survey's history."
Encouragingly Northern Ireland's construction firms also reported the fastest rise in prices for their services since data became available almost five years ago. The return of demand has restored some pricing power. However, Ulster Bank noted that construction firms are now experiencing the fastest rate of input cost inflation in 20 months.
"Despite these inflationary pressures, it is still pleasing to note that the construction sector is posting healthy growth rates in terms of output, orders and employment," said Ramsey.