Northern Ireland

Private sector employment 'rises at fastest rate since 2007'

Cashier handling money
Image caption The survey is good news for Northern Ireland

A survey of businesses has suggested that private sector employment in Northern Ireland is increasing at its fastest rate since August 2007.

The Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) is a monthly survey of a panel of firms.

It tracks indicators such as new orders, employment and exports.

It shows NI business activity has been expanding since the summer following a long period of contraction.

The October survey showed that a higher rate of new business supported the strongest increase in employment in over six years.

The PMI data is produced by Ulster Bank.

Richard Ramsey, the bank's chief economist in Northern Ireland, said while the survey suggests the pace of recovery has eased since the summer, local firms still posted a "robust" rate of growth in October.

He said increased business activity was now feeding through to employment growth.

"Rising backlogs of work have become a feature within the private sector in recent months across all sectors.

"Indeed, last month saw the level of backlogs (work not yet started or completed) increase at its fastest rate since August 2007.

"This is both significant and encouraging as rising backlogs of work are invariably a trigger for firms to hire more staff."

Mr Ramsey said that companies are also seeing "a return in pricing power".

"Last month saw local firms raise the price of their goods and services at their fastest rate in over five years.

"For many firms, this will help restore profit margins after years when passing on price rises to customers was simply not an option."

Official economic growth figures for the second quarter of 2013, known as the Composite Economic Index or "Northern Ireland GDP", are due be published later this month.

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