Northern Ireland’s private sector is continuing to see growth, only being outpaced by London according to Ulster Bank.

New figures show in March, private sector growth rose at its fastest rate in a year with output and sales up with only London seeing a sharper rate of growth across the UK. This was boosted by increased consumer confidence.

Ulster Bank says Northern Ireland’s economy continues to see signs of improvement as inflationary measures continued to ease, but they are still above the pre-pandemic, long-term average.

Exports were also up in March in addition to a record rise in employment levels.

Richard Ramsey, chief economist Northern Ireland, Ulster Bank said:

“Momentum in the local economy continued to build at the end of the first quarter.

“February’s report was summed up in the word ‘improvement’ and March was something of a rerun of this, with almost every indicator improving further on the previous month.

“Business activity accelerated at its fastest pace in a year, with only London recording a sharper rate of growth.”

The bank reported growth across all sectors in the survey apart from construction, but Mr Ramsey said that “one of the few bright spots for construction is employment”, adding: “Indeed, employment was strong across all sectors, growing at the joint fastest pace on record and one that exceeded all other UK regions.”

“While we are seeing notable short-term improvements, and firms are relatively optimistic for the year ahead, there are lots of challenges that will impact on future growth”, he also said.

Northern Ireland’s continued economic improvement was the second sharpest of the 12 areas of the UK surveyed – only just behind London.

By William Hallowell.

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