Manufacturing led the way for continued growth in the Northern Ireland economy during September, a report by the Ulster Bank announced.
The monthly Ulster Bank purchasing managers’ index (PMI) said September was the 15th month in a row of expansion for companies in the region.
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And it was manufacturing that was able to help the province to this achievement. However, the survey was carried out before the announcement of the closure of cigarette factory JTI in Ballymena which will see the loss of nearly 900 jobs.
Even with continued growth and a strong manufacturing sector, Northern Ireland is the poorest region economically of the UK, with an average income of £21,836. The difference between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK amounts to an annual £4,828.
And in terms of unemployment, the Labour Force Survey also shows Northern Ireland performing below the UK average.
The 2014 2nd quarter unemployment rate in Northern Ireland of 6.9%, compared to the UK average of 6.6%
But in a sign of changing times, there were steep rises in activity and new business. And output among manufacturers grew at the fastest rate of any of the economies measured by Markit Economics, which carried out the survey.
However, growth in the services sector also slowed down, with retailers reporting a drop – but across the board, companies were confident enough about the rate of business coming in to take on new staff.
Construction also experienced good growth, though mainly due to work in other parts of the UK and in the Republic.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said September showed growth in key areas like output, export orders and employment: “Manufacturing was the strongest performer, with September contributing to faster rates of growth in quarter three relative to quarter two.”
“In the construction sector, rates of growth remain at healthy levels, largely linked to work outside of Northern Ireland, despite an easing in output and new orders during September.”
Ramsey added that manufacturers should be on track for a few more healthy months: “In the near-term, this robust rate of growth amongst local manufacturers should continue, with order books expanding in September at their fastest rate in almost eight years,” he said.
“Beyond that time-horizon, however, there is mounting evidence that a slowdown is around the corner. The UK manufacturing sector saw the rate of growth in export orders almost grind to a halt.”