Belfast Telegraph

The Open helped fuel unexpected second quarter economic growth in Northern Ireland

Shane Lowry won The Open
Shane Lowry won The Open
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

The run-up to The Open golf championship in July may have helped fuel growth in the economy in the second quarter, it's been claimed.

Key economic surveys from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency have shown expansion in the services and production sectors.

There was a 0.8% quarter-on-quarter increase in output from the services sector during April to June - the fastest pace of growth in five quarters.

And year-on-year, there was expansion of 0.5% in the services sector, a broad category covering everything from estate agents to restaurants.

Overall, services sector output is at its highest point in a decade but still 2.6% lower than its pre-crash high in 2006.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the uplift had been driven by the consumer-sensitive sector of wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, and the accommodation and food sector - which embraces the tourism trade. That sub-sector had seen growth of 2.2%.

Mr Ramsey said: "Northern Ireland's superior performance is likely to have been due to the continued boom from the tourism market.

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"The build-up for The Open golf tournament in July was undoubtedly a positive boost for the local hospitality sector."

Meanwhile, the production sector expanded by 1.2% over the quarter, and by 3.6% over the year. In contrast, the UK's production sector had fallen by 1.4% over the quarter, and by 0.5% over the year. All four sectors within production in Northern Ireland reported an increase, with the strongest expansion in the mining and quarry sub-sector at 7.7%.

Mining and quarrying also led the way with an 11.7% increase year-on-year, while there was also strong growth in manufacturing at 3.6%.

Andrew Webb, chief economist at business advisory firm Grant Thornton, said the production increase would surprise many. The quarter had been tipped for a fall in output after stockpiling in the first quarter as firms anticipated Brexit at the original date of March 31.

"That said, with the political uncertainty having ramped up, and a series of most recent forward-looking indicators showing decreases in sentiment, the prospects for the economy are rapidly moving towards negative territory," Mr Webb added.

Belfast Telegraph