Business

Figures show Northern Ireland economy ended 2016 with a bang

Belfast’s crane cluttered skyline is clearly evident in the latest batch of construction statistics according to latest economic data

THE north's economy continues to grow slower than its southern neighbours and Britain, and is worth 5 per cent less than before the crash in 2007, a new study says.

But the latest Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index points to a growth spurt at the end of last year and a rebound from the negativity which followed June's referendum vote to leave the EU.

The index, published by the NI Statistics & Research Agency, found that economic output increased by a record 2.1 per cent over October to December period, driven by rises in the services, production and construction sectors.

And that represented the fastest rate of growth in 12 years.

Yet despite that positive performance, the index is currently 5.1 per cent below the maximum value, recorded in quarter two a decade ago.

"In quarter three 2016, UK GDP was estimated to have been 8.5 per cent higher than its pre-economic downturn peak of quarter one 2008," the report said

However, when the trend in the index was considered over the last three years there was some evidence that the rate of growth had increased.

It said the improvement was driven by increases in the services, production and construction sector as well as a boost in the number of public sector jobs.

Ulster Bank's regional chief economist Richard Ramsey said: “As far as economic growth is concerned, this shows the Northern Ireland economy ended 2016 with a bang.

"Both the public and private sectors recorded growth with construction posting the fastest rate of expansion of all sectors.

"Belfast’s crane cluttered skyline is clearly evident in the latest batch of construction statistics."

The north's private sector expanded by 2.6 per cent quarter-on-quarter, with output up 4.1 per cent over the year - the fastest rate of growth in a decade.

"This helped to propel output to its highest level in over eight years," Ramsey said.

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