New report shows significant growth in Northern Ireland's private sector during 2018

The annual business inquiry measures the size and performance of the north’s non-financial business economy
Ryan McAleer

A SIGNIFICANT part of the north's economy grew by eight per cent last year.

The annual business inquiry measures the size and performance of the north's non-financial business economy.

It estimated the value of this sector economy increased by £1.77bn during 2018 to £23.8bn.

The sectors analysed include businesses across the production, construction, distribution and services industries, it accounts for roughly two-thirds of the north's total economy.

It doesn't take into consideration public sector bodies.

The retail and wholesale trade, which comes under the distribution header, recorded approximate gross value added (aGVA) growth of £613 million (12 per cent), while the construction sector grew by £309m (12.8 per cent).

The Northern Ireland Research and Statistics Agency (NISRA), measures aGVA by subtracting what businesses spend on things like materials and services from its income.

Total turnover within the north's non-financial business economy increased 3.5 per cent to £68.4bn, while purchases rose 4.5 per cent to £45.88bn.

In its report, NISRA said that while growth in turnover and purchases in the north is lower than that of the UK, overall aGVA grew at a higher rate here than the UK average (4.9 per cent).

However the report has flagged up a number of industries which appeared to shrink last year.

According to NISRA, AGVA for the north's manufacturing sector fell by £66m (1.4 per cent) last year, with the water supply and waste sector decreasing by £33m (4.1 per cent).

Chief economist at Grant Thornton, Andrew Webb described the annual business inquiry (ABI) as an important measure of economic activity.

“It is showing some highly impressive turnover and aGVA growth by Northern Ireland firms, particularly around retail, construction and office type jobs.

“Given the lag in the ABI (these figures are for 2018) this strong performance isn't a surprise,” he said.

“We've had a very long run of employment growth data that is much more up to the moment. It follows that job growth is being driven by the turnover and aGVA improvements noted in the annual business inquiry.”

However the economist said the hit to the north's manufacturing sector was a concern.

“In this sector turnover was down by two per cent.

“More worryingly, the cost of purchases the sector made was up 8.6 per cent.

“Understanding whether that is being driven by issues such as energy costs (as often cited) or other issues such as the weaker pound will be important to know so Northern Ireland can take action to remain competitive.”

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