Belfast Telegraph

Enterprise minister Arlene Foster warns against any complacency despite economic boost

By Margaret Canning

There are no grounds for complacency about the economy, the Enterprise Minister said as a further sliver of cheering economic data emerged.

Led by a boost in production of metal products and pharmaceuticals, manufacturing output grew 1.1% between April and June on the previous quarter and by 0.3% over the year, according to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment's production index.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the index shows a "record high" in the second quarter for the chemical and pharmaceutical products of firms like Randox, Almac and Norbrook.

Production in that sector was up 9.1% quarter-on-quarter, up 16.5% year-on-year – and up 27% since the downturn began, Mr Ramsey said.

But manufacturing is still 16% below the peak recorded in 2007 – greater than the fall recorded by the UK of 9.6% in the same period.

And yearly totals for the past four quarters showed that manufacturing output is down 3.8% in the latest four quarters compared to the previous four.

The overall index of production was steady quarter-on-quarter.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: "Although the overall index of production showed no change in output over the second quarter in 2013, I am encouraged by the reported growth in real terms in the manufacturing sector over both the quarter and the year.

"While these figures relate to the second quarter of 2013, the growth in manufacturing output corresponds well with other positive indicators of recovery. Unemployment is falling, there is evidence of job growth and house prices have started to increase."

But she said growth was often "uneven" and construction had fallen again in the second quarter.

"There are therefore no grounds for complacency," she added.

All the manufacturing sub-sectors – except food, beverages and tobacco, which fell very slightly – grew over the quarter. Metal products grew 13.5%, engineering by 3%, chemicals and pharmaceuticals by 9% and textiles by 3%.

The overall production index had recovered some of the ground lost leading up to a 2009 nadir – but was still 13.8% below its peak, around the same as the slump suffered across the UK at the same time.

Belfast Telegraph