Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Centre for Economic Policy: 2014 high point of recovery

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's economy is currently managing a 'rebalancing act' with nearly all sectors enjoying recovery, according to a major report.

But the Northern Ireland Centre for Economic Policy autumn outlook cautioned that 2014 would likely mark the high point of recovery.

It acknowledged that employment had steadied or even increased in 14 out of 19 sub-sectors over the last 12 months.

And all parts of Northern Ireland were enjoying a fall in joblessness, as decreasing dole queues were reported in all 26 district councils.

Private sector growth had accounted for most new jobs - and was likely to do so in the future, as a new era of austerity takes root.

At a First Trust briefing yesterday, NICEP said it believed the economy would grow by 2.2% this year - but that growth would drop to 1.9% in 2015.

NICEP said the breadth of recovery across so many sectors would provide a buffer against economic challenges ahead, including public spending cuts and rising interest rates.

Gareth Hetherington, associate director at NICEP - which is sponsored by First Trust and Ulster Business School, part of Ulster University - said: "With the welcome growth in the private sector and the current and impending cuts in public spending, the Northern Ireland Assembly's objective to re-balance the economy is happening by default.

"The headline economic data for Northern Ireland remains positive with employment growing, unemployment falling and business surveys reporting higher levels of confidence and growing order books."

But he said the performance in 2014, during which firms reported increased business activity every month, was likely to be the "high watermark" in the present economic cycle.

NICEP added that the province was fortunate to be facing austerity at a time of economic growth. Other countries had faced austerity at times of private sector recession, it said.

But NICEP warned that the public sector cuts were likely to be deeper than anything experienced before by the Executive.

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