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Experts forecast 18,000 new jobs in next two years

A new independent economic research group has opened its doors by forecasting the Northern Ireland economy will create 6,000 new jobs this year and 12,000 next.

The Northern Ireland Centre for Economic Policy (NICEP) based its projections on growth expectations of 0.7% in 2013 and 1.5% in 2014 which, although a big improvement on the last few years, will be tempered by on-going austerity, rising interest rates and increased inflation.

During that time it expects average house prices in Northern Ireland to climb from £132,000 in 2013 to £139,000 in 2014 and £155,000 in 2015. Between 2016 and 2020 it sees house prices here averaging £221,000.

At its launch last night, the University of Ulster's Vice Chancellor Professor Richard Barnett said the role of the centre, which will be based at the university's Ulster Business School, would be to challenge and inform decision makers.

The formation of the group is a direct consequence of recommendations made in the Independent Review of Economic Policy (IREP) at its publication in 2009, a paper which looked at ways of revitalising the Northern Ireland economy.

NICEP is tasked with providing ministers with "independent and robust economy research to inform their economy policy choices".

It is funded by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI), First Trust Bank and the Belfast Harbour Commissioners and headed by economist Professor Neil Gibson and supported by associate directors Richard Johnston and Gareth Hetherington.

Prof Gibson said the Northern Ireland economy still has a long road to travel to full recovery.

"There are many challenges ahead and any recovery, however welcome, should not dissuade us from being relentless in improving Northern Ireland as a place to do business," he said. "Developing new policy and practices to accelerate any recovery and prepare for future challenges is an integral part of that process."

As well as launching the centre, Prof Gibson also revealed NICEP's Outlook Winter 2013 paper.

In it, he said there's little doubt economic recovery is under way in but there's a sensitive balance to strike in the near future.

"Confidence plays a critical part and any 'talking down' of recovery is most unhelpful," said Prof Gibson.

Belfast Telegraph