Northern Ireland’s private sector started the new year in a stronger position than it ended the previous one, 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 survey, which asks firms about issues such as staffing levels, exports, and new orders, is considered a reliable indicator of economic performance. Ramsey noted that local firms were most optimistic about future output levels since May 2021, and this positive sentiment was evident across all four sectors.
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. Manufacturing, services, and construction firms all took on more staff last month, with only retailers reducing their staffing levels for the first time in more than a year.
The impact of political developments in Northern Ireland on sentiment is expected to become apparent in February’s survey. According to Ramsey