Belfast Telegraph

11,000 jobs 'have gone due to Euro and slump'

By David Elliott

The eurozone crisis and public spending constraints are to blame for 11,000 private sector job losses in Northern Ireland over the last two years, according to PwC.

The business advisors said that both factors are responsible for diminishing confidence amongst businesses here, dwindling exports from these shores and a steady reduction in investment which will lead to a contraction of the economy by 0.4% this year.

In its latest Northern Ireland Economic Outlook report released today, PwC highlighted the steady shrinkage of the Northern Ireland economy. As a result the region has lost 10,970 jobs in the private sector between March 2010 and March 2012,

The greatest impact was felt in the construction and retail sectors which lost 5,710 and 5,820 jobs respectively. Around 500 jobs went in financial services, 230 in food processing and 100 in tourism and leisure.

Only the manufacturing sector saw job numbers grow with 1,390 people taken on over the two year period. And redundancies levels remain high with 1,249 people losing their jobs since the start of 2012, 372 of which came in March alone, according to PwC.

While some of the losses have been negated by the 270 new jobs from recent foreign direct investment announcements, the impact of a worsening euro crisis will hit Northern Ireland hard, according Dr Esmond Birnie, PwC chief economist.

"Dealing with further eurozone shocks is beyond the influence of both the UK government and the Stormont Assembly and if the IMF's fears are realised, the UK and Northern Ireland could still be mired in recession in 2013," he said.

"This would trigger further public spending austerity, which would continue for perhaps another three or four years."

"In policy terms, even if a further eurozone crisis might be averted and a modest recovery ensues, we should still plan for the worst."

However, Dr Birnie said that if the eurozone crisis is resolved, or at least diminishes, the region could see some modest recovery and growth in 2013, driven primarily by manufacturing exports:

"Over the past two years, Northern Ireland has continued to attract outside investment and reinvestment by externally-owned firms already operating here.

"The problem is that too few local companies are internationally competitive and our historic reliance on steady public spending growth means that Westminster's austerity programme is hampering the Executive's ability to commission major infrastructure programmes."

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