Private sector in Northern Ireland 'continuing to contract'

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Northern Ireland's private sector is continuing to contract, a monthly Ulster Bank survey has suggested.

New orders, exports and overall output showed a decline in February.

But the survey, conducted before the intensification of the coronavirus outbreak, suggested some firms are continuing to add staff.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the main reason for the decline was contracts were coming to an end and not being replaced.

He said this was due to "ongoing uncertainty".

Mr Ramsey added: "Since the February survey was conducted, the economic headwinds facing the global, national and regional economies have intensified.

"Economic conditions for all economies, including Northern Ireland, are expected to get worse before they get better."

Some businesses noted signs of demand picking up, but this was outweighed by those respondents that signalled a decline in new orders.

The next official output data for Northern Ireland, covering the last quarter of 2019, will be published in April.