Northern Ireland

NI business activity drops for tenth month running

Forklift truck with bags of sugar Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Ulster Bank report is considered a reliable indicator of economic performance

Business activity in Northern Ireland has declined for the tenth month running, according to a survey by Ulster Bank.

Last year was the weakest year for private sector output, orders and employment growth in seven years.

Output and new orders declined, but companies increased staffing levels, the survey said.

Reluctance among customers to spend and uncertainty around Brexit continued to impact negatively on business activity.

However Ulster Bank's chief economist Richard Ramsey said there are signs of Northern Ireland's downturn easing.

"Brexit uncertainty dogged private sector performance throughout 2019 but there has been a notable pick-up in sentiment," Mr Ramsey said.

"Greater clarity around Brexit and political direction following the general election is a factor.

"All sectors have become more optimistic about the year ahead with retailers the only sector not anticipating growth over the next twelve months."

Construction firms are said to expect activity to increase over the next year for the first time in 18 months.

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