October saw 'sharp decline' in business activity
October saw the sharpest decline in business activity in Northern Ireland for three months, a report by the Ulster Bank has said.
The report says Northern Ireland saw the fastest rate of decline in new orders of all the UK regions in each of the last 20 months.
The survey highlighted a decline in new orders in October.
It said retail, services and construction were the most severely affected.
The bank's chief economist for NI, Richard Ramsey, said: "Whilst the October survey saw the UK post its strongest rate of growth in three months, Northern Ireland's private sector firms reported their sharpest rate of decline over the same period.
"This highlights that the two economies continue to move in opposite directions.
"To date, there has been only one month during the last 35 months when Northern Ireland firms have not posted a fall in business output."
He said manufacturing remained the only sector continuing to report growth in Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's construction firms recorded their sharpest rate of decline since March last year, contrasting with the continued expansion in the UK's construction industry.
The Northern Bank was more upbeat in its latest assessment on Friday, forecasting annual growth of 1% this year, rising to 1.8% next year.
People staying at home rather than going on holiday was helping to boost the local economy, according to its economist Angela McGowan.
Hospitality as well as manufacturing, agriculture and retail are all still growing despite a weak recovery overall, the report added.
Following the publication of the "Quarterly Sectoral Forecasts" report, Ms McGowan said that rebalancing the economy from public to private sector growth is "no longer an aspiration, but a necessity".
The report says that 2.5% growth in manufacturing was a scale of growth not seen since 2005, with 700 new jobs created.