The Ulster Bank Northern Ireland Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) survey for January shows that recovery in the private sector is gathering momentum.Companies in Northern Ireland posted the strongest rise in new business since the survey began in August 2002, reflecting improved success in securing new contracts.Moreover, the rate of growth in Northern Ireland was faster than seen across the UK as a whole. Services companies posted the strongest rise in new business, while only construction saw the rate of expansion ease from December.A strong expansion in new orders contributed to another monthly rise in activity in January, as highlighted by the headline seasonally adjusted Business Activity Index posting 60.4, up from 56.5 in December. The rate of expansion was the sharpest since March 2004, while Northern Ireland outperformed the UK average for the first time in more than six years.The new business activity contributed to faster rises in output and employment. On the price front, both input costs and output prices rose at similar rates to those seen at the end of 2013.Commenting on the latest survey findings, Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist Northern Ireland, Ulster Bank, said: "The Northern Ireland economy has started 2014 the way it ended 2013 with the broad-based recovery continuing to gather momentum."In recent months, the Ulster Bank PMI reports have been peppered with survey highs. January's report continues this theme and signals that rather than slowing down, the pace of economic recovery is in fact accelerating. All sectors of the economy reported record highs of some form or another across a range of performance indicators."Last month local firms posted a marked acceleration in the rate of growth in business activity. Indeed, firms reported their fastest rate of growth in almost 10 years with January's growth rate exceeded on only one other occasion since the survey began. Furthermore, the pace of growth recorded by Northern Ireland's private sector exceeded their counterparts in the equivalent UK survey for the first time since October 2007."