A jump of 1.6% in Northern Ireland’s economic activity during the second half of 2013 is further evidence of robust recovery, it has been claimed.
The good news was welcomed by economists – although they cautioned that Northern Ireland still has a long way to go.
An important economic indicator has revealed that activity hit a level last seen in 2004, although it was still 9.5% below its peak in 2007.
The economy has now had two quarters of growth in a row, with an increase of 1.2% between the third quarter of 2012 and the same period the following year.
Activity also grew 1.6% between the second and third quarters of 2013, according to the Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI).
Danske Bank chief economist and Board member of Enterprise Northern Ireland Angela McGowan said: ‘The positive reading from this latest economic indicator – when combined with falling benefit claimant numbers locally, a stabilised housing market and a recovery in confidence levels – demonstrates that the local economy has definitely turned a corner.’
She said growth was spurred on by the production and private services sector, which include manufacturing, and hotels and restaurants respectively.
This was reiterated by Gordon Gough, Chief Executive of Enterprise Northern Ireland: ‘we have seen in recent months through the Regional Start Initiative that the number of enquiries from those wishing to start-up their own business has most definitely increased. There has been specifically an increase in the number of innovative and high growth businesses in many private sector services such as finance, IT and technology.’
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the index was further evidence of “robust” recovery which began last summer. But he added: “The economy still has a long way to go to recoup the output it has lost in the downturn. Looking at the private sector, it’s clawed back one quarter of the output it lost.”