Economic output fell by 1.6 per cent in first three months of 2021

THE north’s economy contracted by 1.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2021, with the private sector taking a hefty hit as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

The Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI), the closest thing Northern Ireland has to measuring its GDP, reflected the first quarter decline seen across the UK.

However, the annual decline of 0.6 per cent was much less severe than the 6.1 per cent contraction in GDP for the UK as a whole.

The index showed the contrasting impact of Covid-19 on the private and public sector, with the private sector contracting by 7.7 per cent in the past year, while the public sector actually grew by 0.8 per cent amid massive government spending during the crisis.

Ulster University economist Esmond Birnie said the first quarter data reflected a three-month period when many businesses were subject to restrictions.

“The results are a mix of bad and more favourable news: Signs that a Covid related output declines continued into early this year mixed with some evidence of an underlying recovery in the economy,” he said.

“Hopefully, subject to the continued uncertainties around the virus, we will experience substantial economic growth and recovery in the remainder of the year.”

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