Belfast Telegraph

Tough times in province despite lift in rest of UK

By Clare Weir

Northern Ireland is still suffering the effects of the recession despite the UK's emergence from the longest double-dip recession since the Second World War, according to economic experts.

Northern Ireland chief economist with PricewaterhouseCooper, Dr Esmond Birnie, said that without the Olympics and the Jubilee, the true GDP figure would be closer to 0.3%.

"That said, there has certainly been underlying growth in the third quarter and it looks pretty certain the UK economy has left the double-dip recession," he said.

"Growth in the service sector was particularly strong, up 1.3%, with industrial output up by 1.1%. However, construction remains depressed showing negative growth of -2.5%.

"We have no up-to-date GDP data for Northern Ireland, but the available indications, such as business confidence surveys, imply that the region is still in a double dip; even in the best-case scenario, output is flat."

However, Northern Bank chief economist, Angela McGowan, said she was hopeful that Northern Ireland events could help stimulate the economy at home.

"Finally, after nine months of falling economic activity, we have some evidence that the UK economy has started to move out of recession," she said.

"Increased economic activity stemming from the Olympics will undoubtedly have helped to boost the national data with the service side of the economy faring particularly well during quarter three.

"At the local level too we can expect to see those high-profile summer events such as the Irish Open and the launch of Titanic Belfast, boost the Northern Ireland economic data for quarter three. The spin-off effects of such tourist events tend to ripple through the economy and have a positive impact on other sectors such as food and beverage services, transport as well as arts and entertainment."

Richard Ramsey, chief economist with Ulster Bank, said the underlying economic conditions offer little to celebrate. "Since September, the incoming UK data has been much better than analysts expected," he said.

"In October, the improved tone of the news flow has included retail sales, the labour market and even the public finances.

"The resumption of economic growth is essential for the UK's deficit reduction plan. But it is the rate of growth and whether expansion can be maintained in quarter four and beyond that is important.

"The UK economy faces significant domestic and international headwinds that will limit the rate of economic growth going forward."