Today sees the release of October data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by S&P Global – pointed to further reductions in activity and new orders amid ongoing cost pressures, while business confidence sank further. That said, companies continued to expand their staffing levels as part of efforts to rebuild workforce numbers following the pandemic.

Commenting on the latest survey findings, Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist Northern Ireland, Ulster Bank, said:

"Last month saw all 12 UK regions fall into contraction mode as far as business activity was concerned. For Northern Ireland’s private sector it was the sixth successive monthly fall in activity with all four of the sectors surveyed falling below the 50 expansion / contraction threshold.

"New orders also contracted for the sixth month running with October’s rate of decline the steepest – outside of the pandemic - since January 2011. Northern Ireland firms also posted the biggest drop in incoming work last month of the 12 UK regions. Cost pressures and economic uncertainty were cited as key factors behind the fall in demand. Export orders remain particularly weak with the latest monthly decline the forty-fifth in-a-row.

"Once again positives were in short supply and largely confined to employment. Despite falling demand, all four sectors – manufacturing, services, retail and construction - increased their staffing levels in October. Firms suggest that this pick-up in hiring is linked to longstanding recruitment difficulties and rebuilding workforces following the pandemic.

"The sources of inflationary pressures remain broad-based encompassing wages, raw materials, energy and shipping costs. Output price inflation remained elevated but well down on the record rates posted earlier in the year. Indeed, firms raised the prices of their goods and services at their weakest rate in 19 months.

"Given the evolving ‘cost of everything’ crisis it is not surprising that business confidence sank to a 26- month low. All four sectors anticipate lower levels of activity in 12 months’ time. Sentiment is not likely to improve anytime soon with this week’s Autumn Statement expected to yield more fiscal pain rather than comfort."

The October PMI report for Northern Ireland and the NatWest report for the UK regions are attached for your information. Ulster Bank no longer sponsors the Republic of Ireland Construction PMI. BNP Paribas have taken over this survey. To be included on its distribution list please contact ellen.browne@bnpparibas.com

Further PMI material including a podcast and infographics are available at www.ulstereconomix.com


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