Northern Ireland

Construction sector in Northern Ireland out of recession

Construction site
Image caption Workloads have risen but conditions are still 'challenging'

The construction industry in Northern Ireland has "exited recession".

A rise in workloads has been reported for the first time in over five years.

However, a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) survey said the region still lags behind the rest of the UK in terms of recovery.

A spokesman said: "It is encouraging to see the workload balance turn positive following a long period in which the construction market has experienced a very significant downturn."

The industry estimates it has lost at least 26,000 jobs in NI since the 2008 downturn - about 30% of its workforce.

But the RICS sounded a note of caution amid "positivity" in the sector.

"We are talking about small improvements from a low base and key challenges remain," said spokesman Jim Sammon.

"Finance is tight, private sector activity remains scarce, and public sector demand remains constrained. We urge the NI Executive to encourage and nurture a recovery by increasing infrastructure spending," he said.

There has been some relief in this respect.

Money initially allocated to the stalled A5 upgrade between Londonderry and Aughnacloy has been redistributed to other road projects at Ballymena and Magherafelt, among others.

Patsy McGlone, the chair of the Stormont All Party Group on Construction, welcomed the news, but said he remained cautious.

"This announcement indicates a move in the right direction for the construction industry, which has suffered greatly during the economic downturn," he said.

"The scrapping of such high profile projects, such as the Maze (peace centre), has been bad news for potential construction jobs in the North.

"Action needs to be taken by the executive, to ensure that all viable construction projects are completed in order to achieve the maximum number of jobs in the industry."