NI economy showing signs of improvement: PMI survey
The latest Ulster Bank PMI survey can be summed up in one word – improvement, according to Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist Northern Ireland Ulster Bank.
The report, produced for Ulster Bank by S&P Global, signalled a return to growth in February, without both output and new orders increasing amid signs of demand improving.
As such, business confidence strengthened and employment growth quickened. Meanwhile, price and supply pressures continued to ease.
The monthly report surveys approximately 200 firms, focusing on factors including employment, new orders and exports. Private sector firms reported their first rise in output and new orders in 10 months.
Richard Ramsey said all 10 indicators of local business conditions “improved in February relative to the previous month”.
“A notable improvement in the economic conditions within Northern Ireland’s export markets helped lift export orders in February, following four years of continuous decline,” said Richard.
“The recovery in international demand aided a return to growth in output and orders for manufacturers. Meanwhile, retail’s recent resurgence continued.
“The completed rollout of the £600 energy grant, coupled with cross-border shoppers from the Republic of Ireland, continues to provide a boost for the retail sector.
“Conversely, construction and services posted a further fall in output last month.”
‘Expectations for output in 12 months’ time hit a 12-month high which represents the highest level of confidence since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’
Richard highlighted this latest improvement happened before the unveiling of the Windsor Framework, adding that there may be “further rises in sentiment in the coming months if it is accepted more universally than the NI Protocol was”.
“Time will tell,” he added.
He said it was “encouraging” to see a surge in optimism in February across all four surveyed sectors – retail, construction, manufacturing and services.
“Expectations for output in 12 months’ time hit a 12-month high which represents the highest level of confidence since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” he said.
The headline seasonally adjusted Business Activity Index posted 52.2 in February, moving back above the 50.0 no-change mark for the first time in 10 months, following a reading of 45.3 in January.
Higher new orders also boosted business confidence, which reached a one-year high. With workloads and confidence improving, companies expanded their staffing levels at a solid pace, with the rate of job creation quickening to the highest in 15 months.