NICEI: Northern Ireland’s economy shows a strong end to 2021
The northern economy grew by 1.2% in the last three months of 2021, ending the year nearly 5% above 2020 levels, according to official government data.
The Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI), which is closest to Stormont in measuring gross domestic product (GDP), showed economic output in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2021 peaked in 13 years.
The index showed the northern economy performed just below the UK average, with GDP growing at 1.3% over the same period.
Significantly, economic output in the North increased by 4.9% in real terms compared to the same period last year.
But again, this growth lagged behind the UK GDP average, which was 6.6% up on the year.
The latest index for Northern Ireland showed the private sector recovering from the pandemic, growing 1.4% in the fourth quarter and 5.8% for the year.
This was largely due to a 9.2% annual rebound in the northern services sector as Covid restrictions were eased.
Esmond Birnie, an economist at the University of Ulster, described the 5% annual growth rate as “remarkable”, adding: “Very few growth rates after the Second World War have been so rapid”.
But he warned it marked the high point of the post-Covid recovery.
“When more up-to-date figures become available for early 2022, they will no doubt show a slowdown, especially given the current cost of living crisis and the disruption imposed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “
The index also shows that the Northern economy remains 1.1% below its peak at the height of the property bubble in mid-2007, while UK GDP is around 15% higher than during the same period.