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Recovery signs in North as new business on rise

THE rate of expansion in Northern Ireland business accelerated to a six-year high last month, signalling a recovery in the North's economy.

New business continued to increase, leading to a rise in backlogs of work and a further improvement in employment, according to the latest Ulster Bank Northern Ireland Purchasing Managers' Index.

The retail sector saw the fastest expansion, buoyed in part by the All-Ireland Fleadh in Derry, while strong growth was also recorded at manufacturers and in the services sector.

Ulster Bank economist Richard Ramsey said the August data was an improvement on July.

"It is a refreshing change to be describing business output growth at a six-year high as opposed to multi-year lows," Mr Ramsey said.

"The recovery remains broad based across all sectors of the economy although the construction sector posted a fall in new orders and employment last month."

Key findings included:

* The rise in activity supported by higher new business extended the current period of expansion to three months.

* New export orders increased fractionally for the second month running.

* Employment rose for the second month running – the first instance of back-to-back monthly increases in staffing levels since early 2008.

* Output prices were raised for the third time in the past four months, with the rate of inflation picking up marginally. This was broadly in line with the average seen across the UK economy as a whole.

Mr Ramsey said the Northern Ireland economy would remain sensitive to the recoveries in the UK and Republic.

"The local economy has undoubtedly enjoyed a good summer. The challenge is to follow this up with a good autumn, winter and spring," Mr Ramsey added.

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