15 Apr 2014

PSI strong in all sectors - economist

8:03 am on 15 April 2014

Activity in the services sector has accelerated to its highest level in six-and-a-half years.

The BNZ-Business New Zealand Performance of Services Index rose 5.5 points to 58.3 in March, compared with February. A reading above 50 indicates the sector expanded.

All five main sub-indices were in expansion during March, with sales and new orders leading the charge. New orders rose to 62.1, after falling more than 10 points in February.

Retail trade rebounded to 61.4, after falling below 50 in February and accommodation, cafes and restaurants experienced that category's third consecutive month of strong activity, reflecting higher consumer spending in that area.

BNZ economist Doug Steel said the big bounce back in the index in March suggested the economy was growing strongly.

The survey results were positive across most types of industries, including retail and accommodation, cafes and restaurants, which experienced their third consecutive month of strong activity.

"Whether you look across the industries or the regions or the major components like sales, and/or new orders, and/or employment, they're all very strong, so it's not just one sector, it's not just one component," Mr Steel said.

"That's pretty much what we're seeing across other indicators as well, that the expansion is a broad base, and broadening, as well as being quite strong."

Firms had been intending to employ and invest for some time, and there were increasing signs they were acting on those intentions, he said.

The employment indicator was up to 54.3 - its highest level since the survey started in 2007 - which suggested employment growth was "booting up".

Mr Steel said he expected to see the unemployment rate drop below 6 percent in the next quarter, given the broader indications of growth in the survey.