Export orders fall at their fastest pace in almost six years
The true impact of Brexit on the local economy has been exposed today as figures for February reveal significant impacts on new orders and export sales.
The Ulster Bank PMI report indicates that while business activity rose “fractionally”, total new orders fell for the first time in 28 months, new export business fell to its owest level in almost six years.
The report also reveals jobs reductions for the second month running.
“February’s PMI marked the final survey before the Brexit withdrawal date, and last month was perhaps the point of peak uncertainty and fear regarding a potential ‘no-deal exit’ from the EU,” said Richard Ramsey, chief economist for Northern Ireland at Ulster Bank.
“Private sector firms saw a marked deterioration in business conditions, with output growth almost grinding to halt, employment falling, new orders decreasing, and export orders falling at their fastest pace in 69 months.”
In terms of output, he said private sector growth had hit a 29-month-low, with services being the only sector to remain in expansion mode.
“Manufacturing output stagnated but both construction and retail saw rapid rates of decline,” he added.
“Indeed, retail sales fell at their fastest rate in almost four years and this trend looks set to continue with orders falling at their fastest rate in 49-months.”
As with output, services was the only sector to record a rise in new orders, albeit the pace of growth remains relatively modest.
“In relation to employment, Northern Ireland was one of nine UK regions to experience a fall in February, driven by the services sector which had until January seen almost two-and-a-half years of growth.
“But the one area where Northern Ireland stands out against the rest of the UK is confidence in the year ahead.
“Northern Ireland is the only UK region where firms expect business output to be lower in 12-months’ time.
“Whilst Brexit uncertainty is clearly a factor in all of this, it should be remembered that there are other factors at play, including the wider economic slowdown across Europe, concerns over global trade, and the ongoing restructuring of the retail sector,” he said.