Northern Ireland

New figures measure NI's output for first time

Graph showing NI composite economy index and UK GDP from 2002-2012
Image caption Graph showing the NI Composite Economic Index and UK GDP from 2002-2012

The economic downturn in Northern Ireland was deeper and more prolonged than the rest of the UK, according to a new series of economic data released.

Since 2007, when economic activity was at a peak, the economy has shrunk by more than 10%.

The figures have been devised as an attempt to find a measurement for GDP or overall output of the Northern Ireland economy for the first time.

The figures show NI's recovery has also been weaker than the rest of the UK.

The development came on the day that 114 new jobs were announced in Dungannon and Portadown.

Output of the UK economy is measured by Gross Domestic Product figures but to date there are no comparable figures to illustrate the performance of the Northern Ireland economy due to the lack of data.

The new Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI) will now be used as the closest approximate measurement for GDP in Northern Ireland drawing on the various statistical sources that currently exist.

The series shows economic activity peaked in the second quarter of 2007. The index has been on a downward trend since, falling in 16 out of the last 21 quarters and overall it has fallen by 11.4% to Q3 2012.

According to the new series, economic activity has risen in three of the last four quarters but is still close to the minimum level reached in the second quarter of 2012.

The authors said: "It should be noted though that there have been three quarter-on-quarter increases out of the last four quarters in the NI series, providing some indication of a return to growth over the year (0.3% growth to Q3 2012 compared to Q3 2011)."

The NICEI results covering the period July - September 2012 estimate that NI economic activity increased by 0.7% over the quarter to 96.5% in Q3 2012 - but is still close to the minimum level reached in Q2 2012.

The NI measure is currently close to its minimum reached in Q2 2012 while GDP in the UK has shown some recovery from the minimum level reached in Q2 2009.

The availability of the new series was welcomed by Richard Ramsey, chief economist at the Ulster Bank.

He said: "While strictly speaking they are not GDP figures, but they provide the most comprehensive indicator of the health of the (Northern Ireland) economy.

"In terms of getting an accurate reading of the true health of the economy, they are going to be the most accurate indicator and the most closely followed going forward."

The index has been developed using data from existing quarterly indices of output from the production, services and construction sectors combined with agricultural output data and employee jobs data for the public sector.

The Department of Enterprise who devised the series said: "The NICEI provides an appropriate short term indicator for the NI economy."

The new figures will be released on a quarterly basis.

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