Business activity in the private sector in Northern Ireland has fallen for the 3rd month in a row as the economy continues to grind its gears at a relatively low pace. There was a fall in both output and new orders in September, according to the latest data from the Ulster Bank purchasing manager’s index (PMI). The only bright spot on the horizon was that employment was continuing to rise.
Construction Has Been Hit Especially Hard
In fact all sectors of the economy showed a decline in activity (construction, services, retail and manufacturing), with construction being hit especially hard. Even so most companies, apart from in construction, are still bullish about their prospects for the coming year. In construction they are expecting conditions to deteriorate further as the year progresses.
Following on from this survey by the PMI, here is what Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey had to say about the economic situation, as quoted from an article in the Belfast Telegraph. He said:
“Northern Ireland’s economic malaise during the summer months continued into the autumn with a further loss of momentum in the local private sector during September.
“Whilst all but one of the UK regions saw a similar trend of falling output, Northern Ireland was near the bottom of the table with only the North East and Yorkshire & Humberside experiencing sharper rates of decline.”
Some Positives To Point Out But Plenty Of Negatives Too
And he went on to say in the article that:
“Despite the recent fall in customer demand, manufacturers, retailers and firms within the services sector remain more optimistic about prospects in 12 months’ time.
“Conversely, construction firms are expecting demand conditions to deteriorate further over the year.
“On a positive note, the one silver lining with the weakening demand cloud is that supply chain delivery times eased for the sixth month running.
“Employment also remains a bright spot, with Northern Ireland firms continuing to increase their staffing levels at the fastest pace in the UK.
“However, the pace of hiring is now the slowest it has been this year.” And he said that the services sector — which covers businesses from estate agents to restaurants — had seen its staffing levels fall at the fastest rate since February 2021 during September.
“Higher fuel and wage costs were once again cited by local firms,” Mr Ramsey said.
“Manufacturing was the only sector to reduce its prices in September, for the fourth month running, reflecting a continuing reduction in its cost-base.
“While we may be anticipating an Indian Summer in the coming weeks weather-wise, a similar improvement in business conditions during October doesn’t look likely.”