Northern Ireland's economy 'in slow recovery'
But growth remains at lowest among 12 UK regions
Northern Ireland's economy is showing signs of recovery with growth in manufacturing and construction, says a new report.
However, the latest 'Northern Ireland Economic Outlook' from business advisory firm PricewaterhouseCooper has warned that in terms of job creation, exports and forecast economic growth, Northern Ireland is demonstrating the slowest recovery among the 12 UK regions.
And, allowing for inflation, the report said that the Northern Ireland average hourly earnings at the start of 2013 were only around two pence more than they were in 2003.
The document forecasts economic growth of around 0.5% in 2013, possibly rising to 1.5% in 2014, assuming there is a continued steady recovery in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
Invest Northern Ireland delivered a 41% increase in foreign direct investment (FDI), with investment projects rising from 27 in 2011/12 to 38 for 2012/13.
PwC's chief economist in Northern Ireland, Dr Esmond Birnie, said the increase in foreign investment is substantially ahead of UK FDI over the same period, with new projects including legal services, financial services and ICT securing almost 2,800 jobs in Northern Ireland.
"Admittedly the Northern Ireland increase comes off a relatively low base but it still serves to demonstrate that the region remains remarkably attractive to overseas investors," he said.
"The government has introduced a number of highly attractive tax incentives for investors and these, combined with available skilled labour, a relatively low cost base and a business-friendly environment, show just how much potential exists for further aggressive pursuit of FDI.
PwC expressed concern over the amount of young people unable to find work, while older workers are benefiting from new, part-time opportunities.
Dr Birnie said that Northern Ireland's economically inactive total also remains particularly high at around 29% of the working age population, as compared to the UK average of 23%.