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Northern Ireland services sector hit by worst slump in history

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Richard Ramsey: significant slump

Richard Ramsey: significant slump

Richard Ramsey: significant slump

Businesses in Northern Ireland's services sector saw their biggest-ever drop in recorded history as the impact of Covid-19 began.

The sector, which covers everything from restaurants to estate agents, had a 4.2% fall in output in the first three months of 2020, the steepest drop since 2005 when the index of services began.

The quarterly figures reflect only a few weeks of disruption to the economy after the Government's advice to adopt social distancing on March 12, followed by complete lockdown on March 23.

They do not record the impact of lockdown throughout April and May.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the quarterly fall "rewinds activity back four years in one quarter".

Northern Ireland's decline was much larger than the UK quarterly decline of 1.9%.

Mr Ramsey warned: "Quarter one's decline will be dwarfed by the whopper coming for quarter two."

Meanwhile the production sector, which includes manufacturing, saw output drop by 3.2%.

All sub-sectors in the services sector recorded a fall over the quarter - with the steepest fall of 8.8% felt by firms in areas such as arts, entertainment and recreation.

There was a fall of 7.6% in business services and finances, and a sub-sector which includes retail and wholesale as well as accommodation and food service fell 2.6%.

But there was only a slight fall of 0.8% in the transport, storage, information and communications sector.

Year on year, business services and finance sector suffered the steepest fall at 9.2%.

Over the year, production output slumped by 4.7% compared to a slump of 5% in the UK as a whole. There was a quarterly slump of 3.1% for manufacturing, while the sub-sector of water supply, sewerage and waste management fell by 6.6%.

Within manufacturing, there was a quarterly fall of 6.5% in output from the manufacture of textiles and leather.

Belfast Telegraph