Ulster Bank’s latest PMI report found that activity in all sectors of the economy softened over the past month.

It follows a short-term explosion earlier this year when companies piled up inventories ahead of the March 31 deadline, but with the date for the UK’s exit from the European Union pushed back to October, the latest PMI index “reflects the real state of affairs more accurately”.

Richard Ramsey, Northern Ireland chief economist at Ulster Bank, said output, new orders and exports fell last month.

He said: “After six years of growth, the economic cycle seems to have turned.

The severity of this downturn will depend on a number of factors.

“The kind of Brexit we see will obviously be an important factor. But there is no doubt that the private sector as a whole is currently in a weaker state.”

The consequences of Brexit are not only felt in Northern Ireland, other parts of Great Britain are also struggling with uncertainties.

The UK as a whole reported a slump in manufacturing and construction activity, while service sector activity slowed to near stagnation.

And the global manufacturing sector is also in recession as trade wars between the US and China dampen activity.

However, the decline is hitting these shores hard.

Mr Ramsey: “The downturn in Northern Ireland has been more pronounced than that in the UK.

Indeed, Northern Ireland’s private sector saw the fastest decline in output, new orders and employment of any region in the UK last month.

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