Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland economic growth is forecast to hit 1.8%

Manufacturing, hospitality, agriculture and retail sectors are growing despite an overall weak economic recovery.

The latest quarterly sectoral forecasts document by Northern Bank predicts annual growth of 1% overall for 2010 and 1.8% for 2011 - but there remains a chance of the economy falling back into recession.

Growth will not be evenly balanced, the bank said, with sectors such as construction falling back by 3% and others growing by over 3%.

The Northern Bank said hospitality had shown "strong employment data" and would grow by 3.6%.

Chief economist Angela McGowan said: "The growth in hospitality is actually rather remarkable considering the pressures on consumers and that the visitor numbers do not fully confirm this observation.

"However, the 'stay at home' holiday phenomenon is definitely on the increase and going forward this sector could also benefit from weaker sterling in the last quarter of this year."

The report shows that in the agriculture and retail sector, year-on-year growth levels are estimated to be 3.4% and 3% respectively.

Business services, which represents over 14% of Northern Ireland's economic activity, grew by 1.4%, thanks to estate agency and recruitment dragging down the overall average.

The financial services industry in Northern Ireland, although relatively small at only 4.4% of economic activity, is expected to contract by 0.4%.

Ms McGowan said that despite the prevailing sombre mood among the business community, there is some good news, with opportunities for the business services sector in particular.

"The need to grow Northern Ireland's economy will require thinking beyond the local [business services] customer," she said.

"Remote working and good technological infrastructure in Northern Ireland means that international companies seeking consultancy, accountancy, marketing and many more business services could easily be serviced by local companies in the short and medium term. Growing the private sector is crucial," she said.