Belfast Telegraph

Production industries increase output again

By Clare Weir

Production industries in Northern Ireland have increased their output again.

Production industries, including manufacturing, mining and quarrying and electricity, gas and water supply, posted their second successive quarterly increase with a rise of 2.2%.

UK-wide, the sector's increase was just 0.8%.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment called the results "encouraging".

But Northern Ireland's once-great textiles industry posted a 5.6% quarter on quarter decline for the last three months of 2010 - twice the rate of decline recorded in the sector throughout the UK.

Northern Ireland's manufacturing output still remains 11.2% below its pre-recession high, compared to a UK-wide figure of 9.4%.

Output within the utilities sector is at its highest level since 2000 due to a rise in energy usage because of harsh weather conditions in December.

Northern Ireland's food, drink and tobacco industries, manufacturing's largest sector here, accounts for one third of manufacturing output.

It recorded a 1.2% quarter on quarter increase in the last three months of 2010 which compared favourably with a 0.8% rise for the UK as a whole.

Output was some 4.1% higher than the same quarter a year ago.

In just over three years, the sector has experienced a rise in output of almost 10% - five times the equivalent rate of growth.

Basic metals and fabricated metal products recorded the strongest rate of growth of all manufacturing sectors in the quarter, up 8.9% quarter on quarter - still 4.3% below the levels recorded in the fourth quarter of 2009.

There was also 7.1% growth in the engineering and allied industries sector.

Northern Ireland's engineering industry is the second largest manufacturing sector and accounts for almost 29% of manufacturing output.

The acceleration in Northern Ireland engineering output growth represents a 22% rise relative to the same quarter in 2009.

This growth rate compares favourably with the UK.

But Northern Ireland's engineering output remains almost 16% below the peak output levels of the second quarter of 2008.