Belfast Telegraph

Services sector powers our recovering economy

By David Elliott

The services sector has been the strongest performing industry in Northern Ireland over the last year, according to a list of the region's biggest companies compiled by the Belfast Telegraph.

With only days to go before the April 30 release of the Belfast Telegraph Top 100 Companies magazine, in association with Barclays, we can reveal that the sector – which includes legal, financial, IT and other services – has outperformed the rest of the economy in terms of employment, turnover and profits.

The widely anticipated list will show that the number of people employed in services in the Top 100 Companies list climbed 4% in 2012 compared to 2011, turnover was up 7.8% and pre-tax profits were up 26.7%.

Behind the strong performance is the continued growth of indigenous service companies such as Newry's First Derivatives and the emergence of further inward investment from the likes of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange which, along with the New York Stock Exchange and Citigroup, are helping to cement Northern Ireland's reputation as a financial services hub.

The other sector with a growth in all three measurements is manufacturing but with an increase of 0.6% in employment numbers, 1.9% in turnover and 17.2% in pretax profits, it's still some way behind the services industry.

Distribution and retailing saw employment climb 0.9% and turnover 3.3% but pre-tax profits there fell 9.9% on the year.

And construction-related businesses, although struggling with a drop in profits of 18.5%, saw employment numbers climb 1.8% and turnover jump 13.6%.

Banks and finance companies in the list were in the only sector to see employment numbers fall, by 2.7%, over the period.

Because separate Northern Ireland information isn't available for many companies in the banking industry, turnover and profit figures can't be accurately assessed as a group.

"The sectoral comparison highlights the positive experience, on average for manufacturers and service providers," economist John Simpson, who compiled the Top 100 list said.

"But, profits in distribution and construction-related firms have taken a hit."

Belfast Telegraph