NICEI: Northern Ireland economy posts strong end to 2021

The north's economy grew by 1.2 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2021.

THE north’s economy grew by 1.2 per cent in the final three months of 2021, finishing the year almost five percent above 2020 levels, official government data shows.

The Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI), which is closest thing Stormont has to measuring gross domestic product (GDP), showed economic output in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2021 hit a 13-year high.

The index showed the north’s economy performed just below the UK average, with GDP growing by 1.3 per cent over the same period.

Significantly, the north’s economic output is up 4.9 per cent in real terms on the same period last year.

But again, that growth lagged behind the UK GDP average, which was 6.6 per cent up over the year.

The latest index for Northern Ireland showed the private sector recovering from the pandemic, growing by 1.4 per cent in Q4 and 5.8 per cent over the year.

That was largely driven by a 9.2 per cent annual bounce back from the north’s services sector as Covid restrictions were eased.

Ulster University economist Esmond Birnie described the five per cent annual growth rate as “remarkable”, adding: “Very few post-Second World War growth rates have been so rapid.”

But he warned it marked the high point of the post-Covid recovery.

“When more up to date figures become available for the start of 2022 they will undoubtedly show a slowdown, especially given the current cost of living crisis and dislocations imposed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

The index also shows the north’s economy remains 1.1 per cent below the peak it reached at the height of the property bubble in mid-2007, while UK GDP is around 15 per cent higher over the same period.

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