Coronavirus: Northern Ireland economy ‘could shrink by 10%’

By John Campbell
BBC News NI Economics & Business Editor

  • Published
moneyImage source, PA

The Northern Ireland economy could contract by almost 10% this year due to coronavirus, Ulster University economists have said.

They also suggest almost 250,000 workers could be placed on the government’s job retention scheme.

The Ulster University Economic Policy Centre (UUEPC) report assumes lockdown conditions continue until the end of June.

It cautions that any forecasts are "currently highly uncertain".

Gareth Hetherington, director of the UUEPC, said the economic crisis was unique.

"Never before have governments collectively told their populations to stay at home and in doing so, shut down a significant proportion of global economic capacity," he said.

'Difficult decisions'

The report estimates a total of 235,000 workers could be placed on the government’s job retention scheme - equivalent to 44% of all private sector employees.

The scheme will see the government pay 80% of employers monthly wages, up to a limit of £2,500, at business which have been severely affected by the crisis.

Mr Hetherington said decisions for political leaders are going to become even more difficult as they try to balance public health and economic normalisation.

"To date the approach has been, quite correctly, to prioritise public health, but we also recognise that economic recessions and depressions also come with a significant human cost," he said.

"The unenviable decision facing political leaders will be when to shift the balance of that trade-off.

"The timing of that decision will be very difficult and highly contentious."