Northern Ireland

NI new orders and business output drop fastest in UK

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New orders and business output in Northern Ireland fell at the fastest rate of any UK region in July, according to Ulster Bank's Purchasing Managers Index.

The bank surveys firms across the private sector regarding employment levels, new orders and exports.

It is considered to be a trusted barometer of private sector activity.

Business activity in Northern Ireland's private sector slowed last month for the fifth month in a row.

While all four sectors of the economy saw output fall for the third month in a row, manufacturing firms reported the fastest rates of decline in output, orders and jobs.

In fact, output in the manufacturing sector contracted at the fastest rate in 10 years.

Order books have been deteriorating at an accelerating rate since February; retail was the only sector not to post a fall in new orders.

Export orders fell for the six month in a row.

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Retail sales have been falling throughout the year but that slowdown eased in July, boosted by the warm weather.

Employment levels have been falling for seven months in a row, but given the record levels of people in work in Northern Ireland, that isn't something to be worried about.

How are businesses feeling about the next 12 months?

Northern Ireland's private sector remains the least optimistic of any UK region about the year ahead.

Ulster Bank chief economist in Northern Ireland, Richard Ramsey, said: "The private sector reported a marked deterioration in business conditions in the second quarter of this year.

"This trend seems to be continuing at the start of the third quarter, with output orders and export orders, in particular, all slumping in July."

Mr Ramsey added: "Northern Ireland, across a range of indicators, is fairing less well than all the other UK regions.

"This is arguably related to the disproportionate impact that Brexit uncertainty is having on the local economy, vis-à-vis other UK regions.

"This is what respondents in the survey are citing as the key problem for falling demand."

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