DUBAI - Saudi Arabia's non-oil private sector kept up a steady pace of growth in July, albeit slowing slightly from June, helped by increases in customer numbers, purchasing and output, a business survey showed on Wednesday.

The headline seasonally adjusted S&P Global Saudi Arabia Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for the whole economy fell to 56.3 in July from 57.0 in June. It dipped below the series average of 56.8 but remained well above the neutral 50.0 mark that separates growth from contraction.

The output subindex, a measure of business activity, fell to 59.9 in July from 61.8 in June, also falling below the series average since 2009 of 61.4.

"New business continued to rise substantially, helped by recovering demand and strengthening export sales. As a result, output expanded sharply and employment numbers rose at the fastest pace since September 2019, following a period of weakness in labour markets since the COVID-19 pandemic began," wrote David Owen, economist at survey compiler S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The employment subindex rose to 51.3 from 50.7, its fastest rate of expansion since September 2019, though below the series average of 51.8.

"Firms continued to face pressure from sharply rising input costs, however, with the rate of inflation staying strong despite easing from June. Output prices rose solidly which could impact market demand going forward as global inflationary pressures also persist," Owen said.

Expectations for output over the next 12 months among companies surveyed "remained firmly confident of an expansion in business activity," the PMI report said, despite being fractionally lower than in June.

"Approximately 21% of survey panellists predicted a rise in output, often linked to improving market conditions and higher customer demand. This compared with just 1% of businesses that forecast a decline," the report said.

(Reporting by Yousef Saba; Editing by Hugh Lawson)