Northern Ireland trading activity hits six-year high

Northern Ireland's economic recovery is gathering pace, with businesses recording the fastest rate of activity and expansion in six years during September, the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) has shown.

The strong performance was led by the retail sector, although growth was reported across all four main sectors including manufacturing, construction and services.

Respondents linked the rise in growth to new products and increased marketing activity.

Key results from the PMI include:

  • New business continued to increase during September 
  • Rising workloads caused firms to take on extra staff for the third month running - it is the first month in the survey's history where all four sectors simultaneously recorded employment growth
  • Costs rose, but increasing demand meant companies could raise their prices at the fastest rate in five years.

Northern Ireland's construction industry has recovered more slowly from the recession than other parts of the UK. But Richard Ramsey, chief economist for Ulster Bank Northern Ireland, said that the industry had 'finally boarded the recovery train.'

"As far as the latest PMI is concerned, Northern Ireland companies appear to be experiencing something of an Indian summer, with the pace of business activity accelerating for the third successive month in September," he said.

"Overall, the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI for September is a positive one," he added.

"However it is not an entirely rosy picture as inflation pressures picked up, with the survey recording the fastest rate of growth in input cost inflation since April 2012. Increased salary payments were quoted as one source of this inflationary pressure, and as the recovery takes hold, this trend is likely to continue."