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UK – Employment in Northern Ireland falls for first time in four years amid Brexit concerns

11 February 2019

Employment has fallen for the first time in four years amid Brexit concerns in Northern Ireland, according to January data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland Purchasing Manager Index.

January’s data indicated that business conditions in Northern Ireland were subdued at the start of 2019 amid Brexit uncertainty. Business activity rose at the weakest pace in 28 months, while new orders increased only marginally. As a result, companies lowered staffing levels for the first time in four years. Job losses in the services sector are the primary driver of this emerging weakness. Service firms cut jobs at the fastest rate in 68 months, the report found.

While the construction, services and manufacturing sectors all recorded output growth, expansion was slowing down. The retail sector reported a decrease. The report added that this fall signaled waning consumer confidence.

“Throughout 2018 the theme was one of ever slowing growth, with Q4 the weakest quarter in nine,” Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said. “This trend has continued into 2019, with January seeing private sector growth at a 28-month low. Looking at the order books of firms, which have been broadly flat for the past two months, suggests that subdued growth might be with us for some time.”

“One of the most significant findings of the latest survey relates to employment. Whilst 2018 was characterised by a buoyant labour market, a record high in private sector jobs, and growing skills shortages, we are now perhaps at a turning point,” Ramsey said.

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