North set to remain slowest growing UK region in 2019

Northern Ireland is set to remain the poorest performing UK region for a second consecutive year in 2019, according to a new PwC report. It follows a report published last month, which shows Belfast has fallen down a list of UK cities
Gareth McKeown

NORTHERN Ireland is set to remain the poorest performing UK region for a second consecutive year in 2019, according to a new PwC report.

PwC's latest UK Economic Outlook (UKEO) shows that economic growth in the north was the slowest in the UK throughout 2018 and is set to remain that way next year.

The total economic growth of 0.8 per cent to date this year fell below even pessimistic predictions in March, when it was estimated growth would reach 1 per cent.

Average UK growth was 1.3 per cent, with the fastest growing of the 12 regions recroded as the south east of England at 1.6 per cent, Scotland at 1.5 per cent, London at 1.4 per cent.

The best performing region in 2019 is predicted again to be the south east, where growth will reach 1.9 per cent with average UK growth at 1.6 per cent. Northern Ireland is forecast to increase to 1.3 per cent next year: an improvement, but still below the average.

Despite the easing of austerity in the Budget, the risk related to Brexit uncertainty is likely to be exerting a greater negative influence on business investment in Northern Ireland relative to the UK average.

The publication of the outlook follows a PwC index last month, which found that for the third consecutive year Belfast dropped down in the league of the UK's 42 leading cities. Belfast is now in 32nd place, compared to 30th in 2017, 25th in 2016 and a lofty 5th in 2015.

PwC Northern Ireland chair, Paul Terrington believes with the ongoing political uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the continued lack of a Stormont government it is up to businesses to ensure that Northern Ireland can meet its economic potential.

“Across Northern Ireland, unemployment has fallen to record levels but this has not been reflected in either productivity or the creation of new high-value jobs across the breadth of the economy," he said.

"Financial and business services are growing fast but face constraints on skills availability, and our level of economic inactivity remains the highest in the UK.

“The key is having a realistic understanding of the modern workforce. Investing in on-the-job skills training, applying flexible working initiatives to support older experienced workers to return to the jobs market and introducing innovative education programmes in conjunction with colleges and universities are a handful of ways in which employers can make a difference.”

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