Editor's Viewpoint: One bright spot in a gloomy picture
The large influx of bank holiday shoppers from the Irish Republic today into Northern Ireland is evidence that the recession can have benefits as well as disadvantages.
The weak pound is clearly attracting numerous shoppers and tourists to the Province, but that is only a silver lining on the prevailing dark economic clouds.
The latest forecasts suggest that the effects of the recession are deeper than anticipated and that the recovery will be longer than expected. It will be well into next year before there is any improvement.
This is particularly true in Northern Ireland, and the experts believe that even when the economy stops shrinking, it will be particularly difficult to regain the lost jobs and output.
Already most local businesses are operating below capacity, particularly in the manufacturing sector where the output is 13 per cent down from its peak. Services output is also down by 10 per cent, unemployment is back to 1999 levels, and house completions are at a record low.
The gloomy outlook is underlined by forecasts that Northern Ireland’s economic output may not fully bounce back until late next year, or even 2011, and the legacy of the recession will mean unemployment figures may be higher than those of the last decade.
Despite such a background, people should not lose hope, and every effort must be made by the Stormont Executive and all other agencies in trying to save and consolidate jobs, and also in looking for every opportunity to improve the situation.
Northern Ireland has suffered much, but we have also developed great survival skills. These skills will continue to be more important than ever as we face the economic and political challenges of the medium-term future.