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Minister optimistic as economy grows by 1.6% in Northern Ireland

By John Mulgrew

Published 14/10/2016

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire at Keystone
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire at Keystone

Northern Ireland's economy has grown by 1.6% over the past 12 months, according to official statistics. It expanded from the second quarter of 2015 to the same period this year, with the services sector driving most of the growth, according to the NI Composite Index.

While annual growth here is falling behind the UK average of 2.1%, Northern Ireland saw greater levels of expansion in the last quarter.

During the second quarter of 2016, the economy grew by 1%, compared with 0.7% across the UK as a whole.

Overall, the private sector increased by 2.9%. But this was offset by a shrinking in the public sector of 2.6%.

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said: "These statistics published by Nisra today present a positive picture of our economy and demonstrate that we are moving in the right direction.

"I am also encouraged to see that the quarterly growth in Northern Ireland activity is again greater than that recorded for the UK as a whole."

Dr Esmond Birnie, of the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre, said that if quarterly growth was "continued over the next nine months, that would imply annual growth rate of about 4%".

But Andrew Webb of Webb Advisory said: "We must bear in mind that these figures related to the period just before the vote to leave the EU, but it is better to face into the challenges of leaving the EU from a position of growth and confidence".

Meanwhile, construction levels in Northern Ireland have increased by 4.1%, according to new figures.

The total volume of construction output in Northern Ireland in the second quarter of 2016 was 3.3% higher compared to the same quarter in 2015.

However, overall construction output in Great Britain decreased by 0.7%.

The latest figures come as Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire met with construction firms at Cookstown company Keystone Group, chairing his fifth meeting of his business advisory group.

Sean Og Coyle, chief executive of Keystone, said: "The recent vote to leave the EU has already thrown up considerable challenges and we enjoyed hearing from the Secretary of State how he and the UK Government plan to address those challenges".

Belfast Telegraph

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