Belfast Telegraph

Report predicts growth of nearly 2% for Northern Ireland economy

Agriculture, ICT and science sectors to rise as confidence returns


The Northern Ireland economy could grow by almost 2% next year with progress predicted for the ICT, agriculture and science sectors, according to a new report.

Danske Bank's latest Quarterly Sectoral Forecast said that while relatively weak growth will continue until the end of 2014, the overall growth is forecast to be 0.5% and 1.7% next year.

The report shows that both corporate and consumer confidence are improving. However, it will take time for these to translate into increased consumer spending and business investment.

The information and communications sector is set to grow by 3.1% with a further 1,700 jobs created between now and the end of 2015, supported by several recent jobs announcements such as Allstate NI and Vello Systems.

Agriculture and the professional and scientific sectors are also predicted to perform well with estimated growth of 2.4% and 2% respectively, with the manufacturing sector expected to grow by an estimated 0.8% in this year, rising to over 3% in 2014.

Transport and storage is estimated to grow at 1.6%, wholesale and retail by 1.5% and private administration by 1.2%.

However, some sectors will continue to see lack of movement.

The beleaguered construction industry could see positive growth levels of approximately 1.8% next year.

And Danske Bank anticipates that related sectors, such as property, will, in turn, also improve next year, with moderate growth of around 1.2%.

The health sector – public and private – could grow at 1.8% this year while education will see just a small expansion of 1% this year and a static performance in 2014.

Employment trends suggest that public administration could shrink by 0.8% this year, followed by another contraction of 0.7% next year.

Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said that while there are some encouraging signs, Northern Ireland's economy still appears to be recuperating at a slower speed, because of our reliance on smaller firms, our small geographic spread and relatively low levels of international trade.

"The information and communication sector remains a shining star for Northern Ireland and global trends suggest that there is much more capacity for this sector to flourish and expand," she said.

"However, it should be noted that the ICT sector still has a challenge when it comes to accessing good skills and this is a problem that will need to be addressed for the sector to reach its full potential locally.

"Despite local economic growth lagging behind that in the rest of the UK, there are definitely more positive economic signs this year relative to last.

"The fact that consumer confidence levels have rebounded well and house prices are stabilising bodes well for some improvement in the second part of this year and stronger growth in 2014."

Belfast Telegraph