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Services sector to drive Northern Ireland jobs growth over next 10 years

By Margaret Canning

Published 10/03/2016

Coffee shops are one of Northern Ireland’s areas of growth in the services sector
Coffee shops are one of Northern Ireland’s areas of growth in the services sector
Esmond Birnie

The services sector - everything from estate agents to coffee shops - will help propel employment growth in Northern Ireland over the next 10 years, it has been claimed.

PwC's latest economic outlook forecast growth of 1.4% for the province during 2016, compares to 2.2% for the UK as a whole.

London will have the fastest growth, at 3.1%, it said, while other regions will have growth of between 1.6 and 2.3%.

The outlook said Northern Ireland had been performing at just above average levels for job creation and investment in research and development.

However, its performance was below average in other measures such as GVA and numbers of workers with no qualifications.

But PwC said Northern Ireland could still share in UK-wide growth in new services jobs - and increase its share of advanced manufacturing.

Dr Esmond Birnie, chief economist at PwC in Northern Ireland, said services had been the dominant sector for job creation in the last century, and now accounted for over 80% of total UK employment.

He added: "Northern Ireland has helped drive growth and was the fifth best of the 12 UK regions in terms of job creation in the two years to the end of 2015.

"Health and education and business services have been the biggest growth areas for jobs since the late 1970s, and nationally, we see a further 2.5 million jobs being added in these sectors by 2025 as demand continues to rise relatively fast for these services."

But he also claimed Northern Ireland would have to improve productivity levels and growth in order to claim a share of new jobs.

The outlook forecast that, UK-wide, jobs in manufacturing could decline due to new technologies.

Dr Birnie (left) said: "Automation will also be a continuing factor in boosting productivity and output but reducing employment in manufacturing - another area where Northern Ireland's advanced manufacturing industries have the potential to drive growth."

And while manufacturing has suffered setbacks in recent months - with around 1,000 job losses in Bombardier and the closure of Michelin in Ballymena - jobs in the sector in the province increased by 7,000 between 2010 and 2015.

Dr Birnie added: "Maintaining this performance will depend upon dealing with factors ranging from high energy costs and productivity to capitalising on the reduction in corporation tax in 2018."

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