Belfast Telegraph

Employment recovering but local economy has shrunk, says report

By David Elliott

While the job market has been showing signs of revival, latest data shows the Northern Ireland economy was still contracting in the first quarter of this year.

Activity fell by 0.8% in the three months to the end of March compared to the same time last year, taking the economy back to 2004 levels of production, according to figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

Over the 12 months to March 2013 the Northern Ireland economy slowed by 1.2%, leaving it 11% below its peak reached in the second quarter of 2007.

By comparison, the UK economy grew by 0.2%, both in the first three months of the year and for the year as a whole.

Most of the main sectors suffered in the first quarter, even the much vaunted services sector which was down 1.4%, a figure which takes it 12% below its peak in 2008 compared to growth of 6.9% for the UK.

The production sector fell 0.3% compared to the last quarter of 2012 and was down 6% on the same period last year, while the construction sector fell 1.1% on the quarter and 12.1% on the last year.

Chief economist at Danske Bank Angela McGowan said the Northern Ireland economy is showing signs of picking up but remains delicate.

"Even some local economic indicators such as the latest average house price rise of 1.9% suggest that the economy is at a turning point," she said.

"But of course the recovery is still fragile – the small contraction in Northern Ireland's Composite Index in Quarter 1 is a testament to that."

Belfast Telegraph