NI economy growing at higher rate than the UK

Construction has fallen by 1.7 per cent over the last quarter, but is up by 7.1 per cent in comparison to the same period in 2016
Gareth McKeown

THE Northern Ireland economy has grown at a higher rate than the UK in the past quarter and over the past year official figures show.

The Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI), published on Thursday shows an estimated annual growth of 2.4 per cent, higher than the UK rate of two per cent, while a 0.3 per cent growth in economic activity on the last quarter was reported, higher than 0.2 per cent recorded in the UK.

Over the last two years annual output has increased by 1.9 per cent, the same rate as the UK GDP growth, an equivalent measure of economic activity and is a significant increase on the previous two year estimate of 1.2 per cent for the north.

The north's private sector continues to perform positively and was estimated to have increased by 3.4 per cent over the year to the first three months of 2017, with a 0.4 per cent jump over the quarter.

The encouraging figures have been driven by an increase in the services sector, which grew by 1.6 per cent over the year, while construction and manufacturing increased by 0.5 per cent and 0.4 per cent respectively.

On the same day the economic index was published up to date construction figures for work carried out in Northern Ireland show an increase in output of 7.1 per cent in the first three months of the year compared to the same quarter in 2016. The volume reported by the construction bulletin in the first quarter of 2017 was the second highest level reported in the last five years and continues a general upward trend output since late 2014.

However, the total volume of output deceased by 1.7 per cent from the last quarter of 2016 and was accounted for by a fall in new work of 7.2 per cent and a decrease in repair and maintenance work. There was also a sharp decrease in infrastructure output of over 20 per cent.

In the first quarter of 2017 overall construction output in Great Britain increased by 3.1 per cent over the year and 0.2 per cent on the quarter.

The Construction Employers Federation said the published figures revealed a a "very mixed picture" for the local construction industry and activity within Northern Ireland.

"The Construction Bulletin reflects the outcomes of more recent surveys by both RICS and the Ulster Bank PMI where the volume of construction output within Northern Ireland is undoubtedly experiencing a decline," managing director John Armstrong said.

"It is now of significant concern that, within Northern Ireland, contractors are once again feeling the pinch. Key factors such as political instability, the lack of an agreed Northern Ireland Executive Budget and wider economic challenges are unquestionably having an impact and that impact is nothing other than negative."

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