Activity rises but orders and jobs growth slip to 7-month low

The Ulster Bank NI PMI for February 2018 is out today. It signalled that the Northern Ireland private sector remained comfortably inside growth territory. That said, rates of expansion in output, new orders and employment all eased over the month. On the other hand, inflationary pressures intensified, with sharper rises in both input costs and prices charged.

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Chief Economist’s Weekly Brief The snowflake economy

Last week’s snow induced disruption will have heaped pressure on sectors like retail, leisure and construction. Firms will have to fight hard amid cancellations to manage cash flow and clear backlogs. It might even knock a tenth of a percent or two off Q1 GDP growth. But it is consumers’ attitudes to borrowing which is raising bigger questions for the health of the economy.

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2017 a positive year but dogs on street know there are challenges ahead

Overall, 2017 has probably been a more positive year for the Northern Ireland economy than many would have expected. A wide range of indicators have improved during the 12 months, including private sector employment (now at a record high), construction activity, and both tourism and trade. However, many other indicators have been on the decline, and there are also some clear warning signs that the economy will begin to slow down in 2018. Here is a flavour of some of the key trends we have seen this year, and which will set the context for moving into the 12 months ahead. Continue reading

The highs and lows of Northern Ireland economic statistics

This is an important week for understanding what has been going on within the Northern Ireland economy. We had four surveys released yesterday by NISRA – two on the labour market and two on private sector output. Within them, there was a variety of highs and lows, some of which are positive and some of which are concerning.  For the labour market, the two key releases were the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES).  The latter is the most closely watched survey of the number of jobs in the economy. Meanwhile the other two surveys shed light on private sector output in the third quarter. These were the Index of Services and the Index of Production (industrial production / manufacturing output). So what do they tell us about the local economy? Continue reading

Sharp rise in new orders supports further growth of activity

PMI-1Today sees the release of October data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by IHS Markit – indicated that the private sector remained firmly in growth territory, despite rates of expansion in output and new orders easing from the previous month. Firms continued to take on extra staff at a solid pace. Meanwhile, input costs rose sharply again and the rate of output price inflation quickened. Continue reading

Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – On the horizon

retail-1424043_1280.jpgYou can’t keep the UK shopper down. The retail sales figures for August are testament to that. Is a hike in interest rates on the way to cool things off?

Boom! UK shoppers hit the shops with gusto in August. The amount spent grew by 1.0%m/m and 5.6%y/y. The volume purchased, which adjusts the amount spent for inflation, rose 1.0%m/m and 2.4%y/y. Rising employment means more people are earning but that can’t account for retail sales growth. Either we dipped into our savings or we borrowed more. The Monetary Policy Committee will have noticed the rise in inflation to 3.2%. That will strengthen the hand of members who believe that the time for a rise in Bank Rate is coming closer. Continue reading

Sharpest rise in activity in 2017 so far

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Today sees the release of August data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The Northern Ireland private sector recorded faster rises in output and new orders during August, supporting further job creation. Sterling weakness played an important role in the local economy, helping firms to secure new export orders but also adding to inflationary pressures. Continue reading