Today sees the release of October data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by IHS Markit – pointed to a slight pick-up in growth in October, with both output and new orders rising more quickly than in September. Rates of expansion were still weaker than seen earlier in the year, however. The rate of job creation also ticked up, but business sentiment dropped to the weakest in the 20-month series history. On the price front, both input costs and output prices increased at sharper rates amid higher costs for a range of inputs.
When we look at a range of economic information, the squeeze has clearly been on. In 2017, consumers’ disposable incomes were eroded as inflation outpaced wage growth. The public finances also continued to come under pressure as demand for services rises at a faster rate than our ability to pay for them. Similarly, businesses have faced increasing cost pressures – and some more are actually coming into effect this month – which they haven’t been able to pass on fully to their customers, with profit margins therefore impacted. But as ever, farmers appear to be bucking this trend.