Northern Ireland’s economy has outperformed rest of UK, ONS figures show
Northern Ireland’s economy has largely recovered from the Covid-19 blow, marking the best performance in any country and region in the UK, according to official experimental statistics which indicate it is thriving under the protocol from Northern Ireland.
Economic output in Northern Ireland in the third quarter was only 0.3% lower than in the last quarter of 2019, before the pandemic, according to data released Monday by the Office for National Statistics.
The region outperformed any other in the UK and outperformed the country’s overall economic recovery, which fell 2.1% over the same period.
London was the second best performing region, with production down 1.8% from pre-pandemic levels, followed closely by Wales.
In contrast, economic output in the West Midlands was still almost 10% below pre-pandemic levels.
Jonathan Portes, professor of economics at King’s College London, said it was “plausible that Northern Ireland did better”. Under the protocol, the region is still part of the EU’s single market and has privileged access to both the EU and Britain.
Separate official statistics released last month show that Northern Ireland was the only region in the UK to have increased imports in the first half of the year, compared to the same period in 2020.
However, its exports in value contracted at a faster rate than England’s, but were still stronger than Scotland and Wales.
“Northern Ireland has a large public sector which has helped protect its economy during the pandemic,” said Richard Holt, economist at Oxford Economics.
Holt added that he was not surprised that London is one of the top performing regions in the country thanks to a large part of the staff who have been able to continue working from home, compared to other regions.
While many jobs in consumer services have been lost in the capital during successive Covid-19 lockdowns, higher productivity jobs have mostly continued with employees working from home.
In contrast, the West Midlands, which depend on the manufacturing sector, have been particularly hard hit by supply issues, particularly the global chip shortage and declining demand for cars.
Ruth Gregory, an economist at the consultancy firm Capital Economics, said that “the wide regional differences highlight the risk that the pandemic will exacerbate regional divergence and only fuel the debate on tackling geographic inequalities and the leveling “.
However, the ONS said the experimental data should be treated with some caution as it is “subject to a certain degree of uncertainty”. The figures follow attempts by the ONS to provide more current regional data.
The “confidence intervals”, or ranges of estimates, published by the ONS for the the latest data is large, which means the exact trend may differ from that suggested by official figures, the statisticians warned.
Gemma Rabaiotti, ONS Quarterly Regional GDP Manager, said: “London’s economy tends to be more cyclical compared to the UK as a whole.”
She added that the new model may not be as accurate as the one used to calculate the older data, but “we believe it provides useful insight and early insight into changes in the economy across the board. the United Kingdom”.
Portes said he was not sure the results showed “any real effect.”