The latest survey by Ulster Bank has shown that companies in Northern Ireland experienced a notable increase in business activity and boost in confidence due to strong growth in their order books last month. This survey, which asks firms about issues such as staffing levels, exports, and new orders, is considered a reliable indicator of economic performance.
According to Richard Ramsey, chief economist at Ulster Bank, optimism was at a 32-month high, and the surge in business confidence was the biggest surprise in the latest survey. He noted that local firms were most optimistic about future output levels since May 2021. This positive sentiment was evident across all four sectors. Ramsey attributed this renewed optimism to the launch of new products and higher orders.
The impact of political developments on sentiment should become apparent in February’s survey, according to Ramsey. Three of the four sectors – manufacturing, services, and retail – reported an increase in business activity in January, with only the construction sector reporting a fall. Ramsey highlighted a notable pick-up in domestic demand, leading to the first rise in new orders in eight months.
Furthermore, manufacturing, services, and construction firms all took on more staff last month for the first time since more than a year ago. On the other hand, retailers reduced their staffing levels for the first time since more than a year ago. Overall, these findings suggest that Northern Ireland’s private sector had a positive start to 2024.
In conclusion, businesses operating from Northern Ireland experienced an increase in business activity and confidence due to strong growth in their order books last month. According to Ulster Bank’s chief economist Richard Ramsey, optimism was at its highest point after 32 months due to higher orders and new products launching. The political developments did not have any significant impact on sentiment until February’s survey will show it.
Furthermore, three out of four sectors – manufacturing