MANUFACTURERS in Northern Ireland experienced a rise in business activity, new orders and employment last month.
Businesses increased staff levels for three consecutive months, with last month's rate of employment growth in the North's manufacturing sector the fastest since November.
But despite the positive news, the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland Purchasing Managers Index showed that both the construction and services sectors are still in contraction.
However, in both sectors the pace of decline in output, new orders and employment eased.
The business activity index therefore rose marginally last month to 48.3. Anything above 50 indicates expansion.
Richard Ramsey, Northern Ireland chief economist with Ulster Bank, said the first PMI survey for the year was one of the most positive for quite some time.
Key findings of the PMI survey include:
• Business activity in Northern Ireland decreased modestly in January, extending the current sequence of contraction to 14 months. But the latest reduction was the weakest in the sequence.
• Private sector employment in Northern Ireland rose in January, ending a 13-month sequence of job shedding, driven by manufacturing.
• The rate of input cost inflation at Northern Ireland companies quickened for the third month running, and was the fastest since April last year.