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Northern Ireland economic growth lags at just over half of the UK's

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's economic growth is just over half of the rate of the UK, the latest economic index has shown.

The composite economic index from the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency said there had been 1.6% growth in the economy in the 12 months to the end of March 2015. That compared with a more robust growth rate of 3% in the UK - although growth in the first three months of 2015 growth appeared to be stronger here than the UK.

On a sectoral level, there was growth of nearly 8% in construction, 3.6% in production at 1.7% in services.

Public sector job numbers fell by 1.2% while there was private sector jobs growth of 2.5%.

Dr Esmond Birnie, chief economist at PwC in Northern Ireland, said: "The index confirms a number of messages about the Northern Ireland economy, the most important of which is that the economy is still growing, but considerably more slowly than the UK average.

"The index suggests that in the 12 months to the end of March 2015, Northern Ireland's economic growth averaged 1.6% compared to 3% for the UK.

"However, the index suggests that growth in the first three months of 2015 was 1.1% - almost four times the UK Q1 GDP growth of 0.4%."

But he urged caution at early 2015's growth spurt. "A level of growth so much above the UK should be regarded with caution as it may have been artificially accelerated by very rapid expansion in the construction sector."

And output was still below peak levels at the start of the year. "Output was still 8% down on its pre-banking crisis peak in 2007, while by comparison UK GDP is now 4.5% above that level. That gives some idea of the ground that has to be made up in this region to match the pace of recovery elsewhere in the UK."

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