Business

Services sector drove NI economy to 13-year high in summer

The strong performance of the north's services sector saw economic output hit a 13-year high last summer.

ECONOMIC output in the north hit a 13-year high during the third quarter of 2021, official data shows.

The Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI), the closest measure the north has to measuring its GDP, grew by 1.5 per cent over July to September, driven by the performance of the services sector.

Economic output was 4.6 per cent up on the same period in 2020.

It left the Northern Ireland economy three per cent bigger in the third quarter (Q3) than at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, but 2.5 per cent smaller than the 2007 peak.

Economist Richard Ramsey said the strong performance of the services sector, which accounts for a major section of the local economy, meant it was inevitable the NICEI would reflect a sharp increase.

But he said while the index was above Q4 2019 levels, the economy is smaller than it would otherwise have been if the pandemic hadn’t occurred.

“It is also important to remember that the Northern Ireland economy wasn’t experiencing strong growth in 2019,” he said.

“Private sector output expanded by just 0.8 per cent year-on-year in 2019. That rate of growth is consistent with a recession.

“So returning to 2019 levels isn’t returning to a particularly great place,” added the ecocnomist.

“And it is also worth reminding ourselves that the local economy still hasn’t recovered from the previous recession that began in 2008.

“NI’s composite index remains 2.5 per cent below its Q2 2007 peak with private sector output is 2.8 per cent adrift of the same high.”

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