The private sector in Northern Ireland saw a remarkable increase in business activity and confidence last month due to strong growth in their order books, according to a survey by Ulster Bank. The bank’s chief economist, Richard Ramsey, stated that optimism was at a 32-month high and that the surge in business confidence was the biggest surprise in the latest survey.
The surge in new orders was evident across all four sectors, with local firms most optimistic about future output levels since May 2021. This positive sentiment was also reflected in the increase of staffing levels among manufacturing, services, and construction firms, while only retailers reduced their staff for the first time in more than a year.
Ramsey highlighted that domestic demand played a notable role in the pick-up of new orders, leading to an increase of business activity among three out of four sectors – manufacturing, services and retail – while only construction reported a fall. He also noted that the political developments in Northern Ireland could impact sentiment and will be apparent in February’s survey.