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'Fragile' recovery fails to lift spirits

Published 27/01/2010

Northern Ireland business leaders have cautioned against getting too excited about economic recovery after the UK officially exited recession.

Figures released yesterday showed gross domestic product grew by 0.1%, ending the longest decline since records began in the 1950s.

The pound slumped despite the confirmation of a return to growth after 18 months of decline as the outcome fell short of the 0.4% rise experts had predicted.

The UK is the last of the G7 nations to pull out of decline and economists forecast that Northern Ireland's turnaround could lag behind by several more months.

Northern Bank economist Angela McGowan said the overall recovery was still 'very fragile'.

"Today's data will be significant for policy-makers and economists and might even go some way towards rebuilding consumer confidence. However, while the economy has 'technically' moved out of recession, the very low growth expected this year will most probably translate into a jobless recovery. Unfortunately, those people who have lost their jobs over the last year and a half will not be able to treat today's data as particularly significant for improvement of their job prospects," she said.

Wilfred Mitchell from the Federation of Small Businesses noted that despite the GDP statistics many firms continue to struggle.

"Feedback and evidence from FSB members over the last twelve months clearly indicates that small business owners in Northern Ireland have felt the impact of the economic recession more than their counterparts in the rest of the UK.

"A 0.1% recovery is a frail one and it will take a considerable amount of time to bounce back from such a prolonged and deep period of downturn," he said.

Glyn Roberts, from retailer association NIIRTA, agreed there is a long way to go, particularly given the precarious nature of the province's political situation.

"While we have had some good news on the broader economic front, what would be even better good news for the Northern Ireland Economy would be an agreement and our Executive Ministers getting back in the driving seat playing their part in helping our local economy move towards a sustainable recovery," he said.

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