North’s economy grew at fastest pace in nine years in 2015
But despite strengthening of growth, North’s economy still lags the rest of the UK
Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
The North’s economy grew at its fastest pace in nine years during 2015 according to latest figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency.
The agency’s latest research shows the Northern Ireland growth rate was 1.4 per cent last year compared to the previous year’s growth rate of 0.7 per cent.
Although Northern Ireland’s economic performance showed a marked improvement last year the statistics also highlight that it continued to lag behind the UK in general.
The UK has reported GDP growth in each of the last 12 quarters but the Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI), which measures the performance of the local economy, has reported growth in just eight of the last 12 quarters.
The average UK GDP growth for the four quarters to the fourth quarter of was 2.3 per cent - the North’s growth rate was 1.4 per cent over the same period.
Richard Ramsey, chief economist NI, Ulster Bank, says Northern Ireland’s rate of growth has been “pedestrian” compared to the UK in general and that the improved headline figures also “conceal the contrasting fortunes between the public and private sectors”.
The NICEI shows that the annual average growth in the private sector last year was 2.3 per cent but that the continued voluntary exit scheme underway in the public sector off set the private sector growth over the medium term.
Mr Ramsey added: “It is worth noting that 2015’s private sector rate of growth was still less than half the rate that occurred in 2006 (+4.8 per cent).
“Despite the ongoing recovery it is worth putting this into perspective. The private sector has still only recouped 37 per cent of the output it has lost during the recession”.
He said that if the Q4 2015 growth rate was to continue throughout this year private sector output would still not return to its pre-down peak - recorded in Q1 2019.
“This is what could be referred to as a lost decade,” he said.
Meanwhile the latest Northern Ireland Construction Bulletin also released today shows that current levels of construction output are 39 per cent lower than the levels reported in the quarters before the downturn in 2007.
But in 2015 overall construction output increased year on year by 11.4 per cent while new work also grew by 17.7 per cent and repair and maintenance work decreased by 2.8 per cent.