Businesses in Northern Ireland hired staff at the fastest rate in over a year in November, figures indicate.
The latest Ulster Bank Purchase Managers’ Index (PMI), which provides a monthly snapshot of economic activity in the private sector, also recorded growth in output and new orders.
However, productivity is still below pre-recession levels and certain sectors - namely retail and manufacturing - experienced negative results in November.
Richard Ramsey, chief economist with Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, said: “Northern Ireland’s private sector reported a notable improvement in business conditions in November.
“The pace of growth in business activity and new orders accelerated relative to the modest levels of expansion recorded in October.
“However, these rates of growth remain below the pre-recession historical average.
“Meanwhile firms increased their staffing levels at their fastest rate in 14 months.
“Furthermore, the pace of employment growth continues to rise at a faster rate than the pre-downturn long-term average.”
Mr Ramsey said while overall figures were positive, the retail and manufacturing sectors continued to struggle.
“Underneath the positive headlines the performance at a sector level was somewhat mixed,” he said.
“The overall pick-up in the rate of growth in business activity, new orders and employment was due to the services and construction industries. The latter posted its strongest rates of growth in output and new orders in over a year.
“The improvement in services and construction firms concealed a slowdown in retail sales and outright contraction within manufacturing. Retail sales are easing from a period of very strong growth. However the performance of the manufacturing sector is of more concern, with output, new orders and employment all falling in November.
“Manufacturers have reduced their headcount in each of the last three months. This comes ahead of a significant number of high profile redundancies, already announced, but due to take place next year.
“While the return of pay rises coupled with ‘noflation’ will support consumer spending and therefore the retail sector next year, 2016 does not look as if it will be a great year for manufacturing.”