The State of Britain

NI

The Province’s productivity growth outstrips most other regions and unemployment remains the lowest in the UK

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A nowcast for Northern Ireland for the 12 months ended March 2021 which incorporates the second lockdown, published by the Economic Statistic Centre of Excellence (‘ESCoE’) on a rolling 4 quarter basis, has estimated that the Province’s economy contracted by 10.5%.

This ranked Northern Ireland third in the UK (previous ranking fourth). Over the same period the East Midlands was ‘best’ with a fall of 9.4%, with Wales’s 13.4% contraction the ‘worst’. The UK overall posted -11.8% on the same measure.

ESCoE is a partnership of research institutions and the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) and has highlighted that during these unprecedented times, with differing lockdowns, there is no historical data that their model can use to fully understand how the pandemic will impact regional economies.

Consequently the partnership emphasises the uncertainties that exist with their nowcast at this time. This is the last nowcast that will be published by ESCoE with the ONS taking over the running of the model in the future.

ONS GDP to December 2020

Official ONS figures for an earlier period which reflects a mix of continued recovery from the first lockdown but also a slowdown from the second lockdown show the Province’s performance relative to other parts of the UK.

The ONS’s figures for the quarter to December 2020 showed Northern Ireland post growth of 0.7% compared with 15.4% to September 2020.

This placed Northern Ireland eighth (previous ranking tenth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’. London was top with quarterly growth of 3.1% whilst the East Midlands was bottom, posting growth of -0.8%. UK growth was 1%.

Labour

Data from the ONS showed the Job Retention Scheme continued to mitigate unemployment across the UK. Unemployment in Northern Ireland was stable at 31,000 between March and May 2021; a rate of 3.6%. At 6.5% London was the highest; Northern Ireland had the lowest rate with the UK rate at 4.8%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 77.7%, this compared with the lowest rate of 70.3% in Northern Ireland where 0.8m are employed; the UK rate was 74.7%.

Public sector employment in Northern Ireland increased by 0.9% to 216,000 in the year to March 2021, which was 25.9% of the workforce, the highest level of public sector employment in the UK which compared to 14.8% in London which was the lowest.

Productivity

ONS figures also showed that in 2020, output per hour worked increased by 3.5% in Northern Ireland which ranked the Province second out of the 12 UK ‘regions’. Productivity growth in 2019 was best in the North West, increasing by 4.6% and fell the most in the West Midlands, decreasing by 1.4%. Overall output per hour worked in the UK increased by 0.4%.

Research and Development

Northern Ireland attracted £0.8bn of R&D spend in 2019, up from £0.7bn in 2018. This ranked Northern Ireland tenth in the UK (previous ranking twelfth). Over the same period the South East did best and secured £7.5bn of R&D expenditure with the North East only attracting £0.7bn.

Overall UK R&D spend rose by £1.3bn (3.4%) to £38.5bn in 2019 – the lowest percentage growth since 2013. Most R&D expenditure was in the business sector at £25.9bn (67% of the UK total), followed by the higher education sector at £9.1bn (24%).

Total R&D expenditure represented 1.74% of GDP in 2019; compared with 1.59% in 2008 and 1.72% in 2018. Overseas funding of R&D increased by 4.1% to £5.6bn in 2019 compared with 2018; this was 0.8% higher than the peak in 2014 of £5.5bn.

Housing

Northern Ireland’s average property price increased by 1.1% in Q1 2021 to £149,178. The uplift took the annual increase to 6%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.9% to £254,624, an annual growth rate of 10%.

Northern Ireland’s economy the fastest out of the first Lockdown

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Official ONS figures which reflect the economy opening up after the first lockdown show the region’s performance relative to other parts of the UK.

These stats compare GDP in the quarter ended September 2020 with the same quarter a year earlier. These showed that Northern Ireland’s growth was -2.9% compared with -17.7% the previous quarter. This placed Northern Ireland first (previous ranking second) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’.

UK growth over the same period was -7.5%. The West Midlands was bottom, posting growth of -11.3%.

In the same report, the ONS’s figures for the standalone quarter to September 2020 showed Northern Ireland post growth of 15.4% compared with -13.6% in April to June 2020.

This placed Northern Ireland tenth (previous ranking first) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’. The South West was top with quarterly growth of 19.9% whilst London was bottom, posting growth of 13.3%; UK growth was 16.9%.

Labour

Data from the ONS showed the Job Retention Scheme continued to mitigate unemployment across the UK. Unemployment in the province was 31,000 between January and March; the drop of 0.3% took the rate to 3.6%. At 6.8% London was the highest; the South East had the lowest rate of 3.4%, with the UK rate at 4.8%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 78.5%, this compared with 69.1% in Northern Ireland where 0.8m are employed; the UK rate was 75.2%.

Public sector employment in Northern Ireland increased by 2.1% to 215,000, which was 25.9% of the workforce, the highest level of public sector employment in the UK, this compared to 14.5% in London which was the lowest.

In December, average earnings in Northern Ireland increased to £589 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £871 and the lowest average earnings of £584 were recorded in the North East and the East Midlands.

Earnings in Scotland increased the most in the UK by £37 per week whereas the biggest drop in wages was £50 in the East Midlands. The rate of annual pay growth was 4.0% for total pay and 4.6% for regular pay. In real terms, total pay is growing at a faster rate than inflation at 3.1%, with regular pay growth at 3.6%. Public sector pay grew at 5.6% compared with 3.7% in the private sector.

The public sector saw the highest estimated growth in total pay. All sectors saw positive growth, although construction (1.2%) and manufacturing (1.9%) had smaller growth than the other sectors. This is an improvement on the growth rates in April to June 2020, the three-month period with the biggest falls in average pay, when all sectors except for the public sector had negative growth rates.

Housing

The Northern Ireland average property price increased by 1.1% in Q1 to £149,178. The uplift took the annual increase to 6%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 1.8% to £256,405 during March, an annual growth rate of 10.2%.

Northern Ireland’s economy weathers the pandemic better than most UK regions

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A nowcast for Northern Ireland for the 12 months ended December 2020, published by the Economic Statistic Centre of Excellence (‘ESCoE’), has estimated that the Province’s economy contracted by 10.1%. This ranked Northern Ireland fourth in the UK.

Over the same period the East Midlands was ‘best’ with a fall of 8.9%, with London’s 12.9% contraction the ‘worst’.

ESCoE also gave estimates of regional growth over a longer period. Over the last five years, London, the East of England and the West Midlands have grown relative to the other parts of the UK despite experiencing some of the largest declines in activity in 2020.

At the bottom of the table, the North East of England is an outlier in terms of weak economic performance and the devolved administrations have also posted below average results.

ESCoE is a partnership of research institutions and the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) and has highlighted that during these unprecedented times, with differing lockdowns, there is no historical data that their model can use to fully understand how the pandemic will impact regional economies. Consequently the partnership emphasises the uncertainties that exist with their nowcast at this time.

ONS GDP to June 2020

Official ONS figures for an earlier period which reflects the full effect of the first lockdown show the Province’s performance relative to other parts of the UK.

These stats are for the period six months before ESCoE’s estimates shown above and compare GDP in the quarter ended June 2020 with the same quarter a year earlier. These showed that Northern Ireland’s growth was -17.7% compared with -4% the previous quarter. This placed Northern Ireland second (previous ranking ninth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’.

London topped the table with growth of -16.3% whilst UK growth over the same period was -20.7%. The West Midlands was bottom, posting growth of -24.7%.

In the same report, the ONS’s figures for the standalone quarter to June 2020 showed Northern Ireland post growth of -13.6% compared with -1.5% in January to March 2020.

This placed Northern Ireland first (previous ranking last) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’. The West Midlands was bottom, posting growth of -21%. UK growth was -18.8%.

Labour

Data from the ONS showed the Job Retention Scheme continued to mitigate unemployment across the UK. Unemployment in the Province was unchanged at 32,000 between October and December; which left the rate at 3.5%. At 7% London was the highest; Northern Ireland had the lowest rate with the UK rate at 5.1%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 78.6%, this compared with 69.4% in Northern Ireland where 0.8m are employed; the UK rate was 75%.

Public sector employment in Northern Ireland increased by 0.5% to 212,000, which was 25.3% of the workforce, the highest level of public sector employment in the UK which compared to 14.3% in London which was the lowest.

In December, average earnings in Northern Ireland fell to £561 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £862 and the lowest average earnings of £555 were recorded in North East.

Earnings in Wales increased the most in the UK by £44 per week whereas the biggest drop in wages was £27 in Yorkshire and the Humber. The rate of annual pay growth was 4.7% for total pay and 4.1% for regular pay. In real terms, total pay is growing at a faster rate than inflation at 3.8%, with regular pay growth at 3.3%.

The finance and business services sector saw the highest estimated growth in total pay, at 6.8%. All sectors saw positive growth, although construction (1.9%) and manufacturing (1.5%) had smaller growth than the other sectors. This is an improvement on the growth rates in April to June 2020, the three-month period with the biggest falls in average pay, when all these sectors except for the public sector had negative growth rates. Public sector pay growth is now 4.3%.

Housing

Northern Ireland’s average property price increased by 3% in December 2020 to £147,593. The uplift took the annual increase to 5.3%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 1.2% to £251,500 during September, an annual growth rate of 8.5%.

The NI economy shrinks by 8% but unemployment still the lowest in the UK

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A nowcast for NI for the 12 months ended September 2020 on a rolling 4 quarter basis, published by the Economic Statistic Centre of Excellence (‘ESCoE’), has estimated that the NI economy contracted by 7.8%.

This ranked NI third in the UK and suggests the province’s economy has so far coped ‘better’ with the pandemic relative to the other eleven UK ‘regions’ on this metric. Over the same period the North East was ‘best’ with a fall of 6.5%, with Wales’s 11.4% contraction the ‘worst’; the UK decline according to these figures was c8%.

However, the total percentage change in the NI GDP relative to the end of 2019 is about -8%. This compares with -8% across the UK and about -16% in the North East.

ESCoE is a partnership of research institutions and the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) and has highlighted that during these unprecedented times, with differing lockdowns, there is no historical data that their model can use to fully understand how the pandemic will impact regional economies. Consequently the partnership emphasises the uncertainties that exist with their nowcast at this time.

ONS GDP to March 2020

Official ONS figures for an earlier period which reflects the start of the Covid 19 turmoil show the province’s performance relative to other parts of the UK.

These stats are for the period six months before ESCoE’s estimates shown above and compare GDP in the quarter ended March 2020 with the same quarter a year earlier. These showed that NI’s growth was -4% compared with +0.6% the previous quarter. This placed NI nonth (previous ranking fifth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’.

London topped the table with growth of 1.5% whilst UK growth over the same period was -2.2%. The West Midlands was the worst performer and grew by -5.3%. London was the only region to show positive growth.

In the same report, the ONS’s figures for the standalone quarter to March 2020 showed NI post growth of -4.5% compared with +0.2% in October to December 2019.

This placed NI last (previous ranking fourth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’. No region showed positive growth. London was top with quarterly growth of -1.5%.

Labour

Data from the ONS showed the Job Retention Scheme continued to depress unemployment across the UK. Unemployment in the province was up by 9,000 at 32,000 between July and September; the uplift of 1% took the rate to 3.6%. At 6.7% the North East was the highest; Northern Ireland had the lowest rate, with the UK rate at 4.8%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 78.3%, this compared with 70.5% in Northern Ireland where 0.9m are employed; the UK rate was 75.3%.

Housing

The province’s average property price increased by 1.5% in Q2 2020 to £143,205.  The uplift took the annual increase to 2.4%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 1.7% to £244,513 during September, an annual growth rate of 4.7%.

NI’s economy shrinks by 6.8% following lockdown but data for an earlier pre-pandemic period shows an expansion and the unemployment rate still the UK’s best

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A nowcast for Northern Ireland for the 12 months ended June 2020 on a rolling 4 quarter basis, published by the Economic Statistic Centre of Excellence (‘ESCoE’), has estimated that the province’s economy contracted by 6.7%.

This ranked NI ninth in the UK and suggests the province’s economy has so far coped ‘poorer’ with the pandemic relative to the other eleven UK ‘regions’. Over the same period the East Midlands was ‘best’ with a fall of 4.5%, with London’s contraction the ‘worst’ at 7.4%; the UK’s decline according to the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) figures was 5.3%.

ESCoE is a partnership of research institutions and the ONS and has highlighted that during these unprecedented times, there is no historical data that their model can use to fully understand how the pandemic will impact regional economies. Consequently the partnership emphasises the uncertainties that exist with their nowcast at this time.

ONS GDP to December 2019

Official ONS figures for an earlier period which reflects Brexit uncertainty rather than Covid 19 turmoil, show the province’s performance relative to other parts of the UK. Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September 2019, the ONS has now published its fifth estimate for the nine English regions, and Wales.  GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013.

These stats are for the period six months before ESCoE’s estimates shown above and compare GDP in the quarter ended December 2019 with the same quarter a year earlier. These showed that the economy in Northern Ireland grew by 0.6%, an uplift on the previous quarter’s 0.3%. This placed Northern Ireland fifth (previous ranking ninth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’.

London topped the table with growth of 5% whilst UK growth over the same period was 0.9%. The West Midlands was again the worst performer and contracted by 2.7%. The North East, Wales, South East, East Midlands and the North West were the other ‘regions’ in the UK to also suffer a decline.

In the same report, the ONS’s figures highlighted that the standalone quarter to December 2019 showed a slightly improving picture in Northern Ireland with the data better than the previous quarter. The provinces’s economy grew by 0.2% in October to December 2019, following -0.1% in July to September 2019.

This placed Northern Ireland fourth (previous ranking ninth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions. Northern Ireland was one of five regions of the UK that saw their economies grow but overall UK growth was flat.

The SW was top with quarterly growth of 0.8% whilst the North East was bottom, posting a drop of 1.3%.

Labour

Data from the ONS showed the Job Retention Scheme continued to depress unemployment across the UK. Unemployment in the province was 1,000 higher at 22,000 between April and June; the uplift of 0.1% took the rate to 2.5%. At 5.2% the North East was the highest; Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.5%, with the UK rate at 3.9%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 79.7%, this compared with 71.7% in Northern Ireland where 0.9m are employed; the UK rate was 76.4%.

Housing

The province’s average property price increased by 0.2% in Quarter 1 2020 to £140,580. The uplift took the annual increase to 3.8%. In comparison, UK prices dropped by 0.2% to £234,612 during April, an annual growth rate of 2.6%.

The ONS data is based on completed housing transactions. Typically, a house purchase can take 6 to 8 weeks to reach completion so the price data in the April figures will therefore reflect those completions that occurred before lockdown.

This is the first publication of the UK HPI since it was suspended in May 2020. The UK Property Transactions Statistics for April 2020 showed that that between March 2020 and April 2020, transactions decreased by 55.5%.

Aviation sector job losses mount up but NIs unemployment rate still the lowest in the UK

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Job losses in NI’s tourism and aviation sectors have come to fruition this month as the disruption from the pandemic continues.

Bombardier announced 600 job losses at its Northern Ireland operations shortly after Thompson Aero Seating, which makes seats for airlines like Qantas and Aer Lingus, said it would make up to 500 redundancies at its Portadown factories.

In Antrim, tyre pressure sensor manufacturer, Sensata Technologies, is planning to make 160 staff redundant. Earlier this year, the firm said it would close its Carrickfergus factory with the loss of 270 jobs. The company currently employs over 1000 staff in Northern Ireland.

At the Titanic Belfast visitor centre 75 jobs are at risk with a further 11 positions under threat at TBL International, an events company linked to the centre and the SS Nomadic. Titanic Belfast is due to reopen on 1 August.

More positively, digital education platform Firefly is investing in Northern Ireland for the first time, creating 52 jobs. The online platform helps schools and teachers deliver lessons remotely and is in demand due to the pandemic.  Invest NI has offered £520,000 to support the employment of developers, researchers, designers and mobile app developers.

The Stats

This month the ONS published regional household disposal income figures for 2018. Total gross disposable household income (GDHI) in the UK in 2018 was £1.4bn. Of that, 86.3% was in England, 7.6% was in Scotland, 3.8% was in Wales and 2.3% was in Northern Ireland.

The average UK income per head after direct and indirect taxes were taken off was £21,109.  England was the only country above the UK average at £21,609 but growth in incomes was best in Scotland and Northern Ireland at 5.1% and 4.7%. England’s growth was the same as the UK at 4.6%; Wales grew by 4.4%.

At a regional level, London had the highest GDHI per head where, on average, each person had £29,362 available to spend or save; the North East had the lowest at £16,995 which compares with a UK average of £21,109. NI was £17,340.

At a local level, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham had the highest GDHI per head at £63,286 with Nottingham the lowest at £13,138. All the top 10 local areas were in London or the South East with the bottom 10 within the North West, Yorkshire and The Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands, and Northern Ireland regions.

The wealthiest part of NI was Lisburn and Castlereagh with incomes of £20,011. This ranked the area 78th out of 179 districts of the UK.

The poorest areas of the province were Derry City and Strabane at £15,348, followed by Newry, Mourne and Down at £16,535. Derry City and Strabane was ranked 171st in the UK, Nottingham and Leicester were bottom.

In terms of regional growth, the largest increase was in London at 5.2% with the smallest in the East Midlands at 3.6%. NI was 4.7%.

At the local level, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham district was best again in the UK with growth of 7.6% whereas Luton was the worst and only grew by 0.9%.

In NI, income growth in Causeway Coast and Glens was top at 5.5% with Lisburn and Castlereagh second at 5.2%. Antrim and Newtownabbey was the worst regional performer with growth of 3.2%, a ranking of 155th.

Labour

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the province fell by 1,000 to 20,000 between February and April; the drop of 0.1% took the rate to 2.3%. Despite narrowing the gap with the West Midlands (4.8%), at 5.2% the North East of England was still the highest; Northern Ireland maintained the lowest rate, with the UK rate at 3.9%.

The South East had the highest employment rate again at 79.5% which compared with 71.6% in NI where 0.9m are employed; the UK rate was 76.4%.

Public sector employment in NI increased by 1.0% in March to 214.000, which was 25.2% of the workforce. Northern Ireland had the highest level of public sector employment which compared to 13.9% in London which was the lowest.

In March, average earnings in NI were unchanged at £537 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £847 and the lowest were in Northern Ireland.

Earnings in the NE increased the most in the UK by £60 per week whereas the biggest drop in wages was £37 in Scotland.

In the UK overall, average earnings grew by 1.7% or by 0.4% after inflation. If bonuses are included real pay fell by 0.4%.

The public sector saw the highest estimated growth, at 3.2% for regular pay, while negative growth was seen in the construction sector, estimated at negative 1.8%. Both the wholesaling, retailing, hotels and restaurants sector and the manufacturing sector saw very weak growth at 0.1% for regular pay.

Following lockdown the Province’s economy shrinks by 3.9%, the fastest fall in the UK, pre-pandemic data also shows an earlier Brexit contraction

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A quarterly nowcast for NI for the 3 months ended March 2020 which captures the start of lockdown, published by the Economic Statistic Centre of Excellence (‘ESCoE’), has estimated that the NI economy contracted by 3.9%. ESCoE is a partnership of research institutions and the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’).

This ranked NI last and suggests the province’s economy has so far coped poorly with the pandemic relative to the other eleven ‘regions’ of the UK but the rapidity of the shut down means the data is more uncertain than usual. Over the same period the East Midlands was ‘best’ with a fall of 1% with Scotland’s 2.7% contraction the second ‘worst’; the UK decline was 2%.

For the 12 months ended March 2020 on a rolling 4 quarter basis, ESCoE has estimated that NI growth has dropped from 1.1% to 0%.

This ranked NI eighth (previous ranking also eighth) and suggests the province has largely held its position relative to the other eleven parts of the UK on this measure. Over the same period UK growth was 0.5%; growth in London (ranked first) was 1.8%; and growth in the East Midlands (ranked twelfth) was -0.6%.

ONS GDP to September 2019

Official ONS figures for an earlier period which reflects Brexit uncertainty rather than Covid 19 turmoil, show the province dropping a couple of places relative to other parts of the UK. Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September 2019, the ONS has now published its fourth estimate for the nine English regions, and Wales.  GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013.

These stats are for the period six months before ESCoE’s estimates shown above and compare GDP in the quarter ended September 2019 with the same quarter a year earlier. These showed NI grew by 0.3%, the same as the previous quarter. This placed NI ninth (previous ranking seventh) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’.

London topped the table with growth of 5% whilst UK growth over the same period was 1.2%. The West Midlands was the worst performer and contracted by 1.5%. The East of England and the North West were the other two ‘regions’ in the UK to suffer a decline.

In the same report, the ONS’s figures also highlighted that the standalone quarter to September 2019 showed a deteriorating picture in NI with the data worse than the previous quarter. NI’s economy fell by 0.2% in July to September 2019, following growth of 0.4% in April to June 2019.

This placed NI ninth (previous ranking fourth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’ NI was one of four regions of the UK that saw their economies contract but overall the UK grew by 0.5%.

Again London was top with quarterly growth of 1.4% whilst, like NI, the North West contracted by 0.2% with the East Midlands posting a drop of 0.3%.

In this period, NI’s best sector was business/finance with growth of 0.6%. Overall the public sector grew by 0.1%, services by 0.1% and construction by 0.2% but production fell by 0.4%.

Labour

More largely pre-pandemic data from the ONS showed unemployment in the province was unchanged at 21,000 between January and March; the rate remained the lowest in the UK at 2.4%.  At 5.4% the North East was the highest; the SE had the second lowest rate of 2.9%, with the UK rate at 3.9%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 80.2% which compared with 72.4% in NI where 0.9m are employed; the UK rate was 76.6%.

Housing

The province’s average property price increased by 0.2% over the month to £140,580. The uplift took the annual increase to 3.8%. In comparison, UK prices dropped by 0.2% to £231,855 during March, an annual growth rate of 2.1%.

The ONS data is based on completed housing transactions. Typically, a house purchase can take 6 to 8 weeks to reach completion so the price data in the March figures will therefore reflect those completions that occurred before lockdown.

Given the closure of the housing market following lockdown the ONS has suspended its index until further notice.

Increased exports helps Northern Ireland record a trade surplus and the province maintains the lowest unemployment in the UK

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HMRC has published the latest regional trade figures which show exports and imports for 2019. Given the time period this data reflects Brexit uncertainty rather than Covid 19 turmoil. 

In the year to December 2019, the overall value of UK trade in goods exports increased by 2.1% to £346bn compared with the same period in 2018. The overall value of imports increased by 0.3% to £483bn.

There was an increase in the annual export value in Northern Ireland along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. Northern Ireland’s exports increased by 2.2% or £199m to £9bn which was 3% of the UK total.  

The leading regional exporter remained the SE with £46bn with Northern Ireland the smallest. The best performer in percentage terms was London which was up by 17.2%, with Yorkshire & The Humber falling by 6.3%.

There was an increase in the annual import value in Northern Ireland along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. Northern Ireland’s imports were up by 1.1% or 84m to £8bn which was 2% of the UK total. The figures, which are experimental, suggest that in 2017 Northern Ireland had a trading surplus in goods of c£1bn. The only other part of the UK to record a surplus was Scotland.

The leading regional importer of goods was the SE at £98bn with Northern Ireland the smallest. In percentage terms London added 12% to imports which compared with Scotland which reduced imports by 7%.

The Irish Republic was Northern Ireland’s biggest export market with machinery and transport equipment the best export. Most of the Northern Ireland’s imported goods also came from the Irish Republic with machinery and transport equipment was the biggest import.

Services

This month the ONS published data on regional services imports for 2017. The biggest component of services imported into the UK was £51bn of travel. This was 28% of the £181bn UK total imports of services.

Northern Ireland imported £1.6bn of services value in 2017 of which £700m was travel. The biggest importer of services was London at £60bn with Northern Ireland importing the smallest.

The data on services exports was released by the ONS last year which showed Northern Ireland exported £2.8bn of services. London exported the most services at £117bn with Northern Ireland the least.

Other data

The ONS has also published the latest regional construction sector data to December 2019 which again reflects Brexit uncertainty rather than Covid 19 turmoil. Compared with the previous quarter all parts of the UK recorded a decline with Northern Ireland posting a 1.33% drop to £1.7bn. The biggest decrease in the UK was 4.6% in the West Midlands; the SE was best with a 0.9% fall.

More pre-pandemic data from the ONS showed unemployment in the province was 2,000 higher at 22,000 between December and February; the uplift of 0.2% took the rate to 2.5%, the lowest in the UK; the NE had the highest rate at 5.6%, with the UK rate at 4%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 80.1% which compared with 72.5% in Northern Ireland where 0.9m are employed; the UK rate was 76.6%.

Northern Ireland’s average property price (at December 2019) increased by 0.2% to £140,190. The uplift took the annual increase to 2.5%. In comparison, UK prices dropped by 0.6% to £230,332 during February, an annual growth rate of 1.1%.

Mid and East Antrim the province’s only area to record productivity above the UK average, productivity growth in the UK top ten and NI retains the unemployment crown

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Like most ‘regions’ of the UK, output per hour in NI is below the UK average. Productivity per hour in the province was 16% below the UK average which ranked NI tenth nationally for 2018. One reason for this is the high levels of hours worked and high productivity in London and South East which pulls up the UK average so much that all other regions fall below it.

The ONS has now released data for a longer period and at a subregional level. This gives further insight into NI’s performance. At the district level Northern Ireland data is only available for GVA per filled job, whereas the data for other parts of the UK also includes GVA per hour worked so although similar the stats are not exactly comparable.

Perhaps the most useful data is the 2018 results for the 44 enterprise regions in the UK which comprise the 38 English local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and six enterprise regions in Scotland, Wales and the border regions.

Thames Valley Berkshire LEP had the best productivity (in terms of hours and jobs) in 2018 at 35% above the UK average whereas the Black Country LEP at 24% below was the worst. At -16% Invest NI would be ranked around 33rd.

In terms of productivity growth between 2010 and 2018 the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP was top with growth of 16%. Twelve economic regions recorded productivity levels lower in 2018 than 2010. The worst performer was the Buckinghamshire Thames Valley LEP which saw productivity drop by 11%. At c5% growth Invest NI would likely be ranked in the UK top 10.

With the exception of Mid and East Antrim (+18%) all of the province’s economic regions recorded productivity below the UK average. Even Belfast was 0.5% below the UK average. Derry City and Strabane had the lowest productivity, 26% below the UK average.

The growth in hours worked between 2010 and 2018 in Belfast was 17%, beating Lisburn and Castlereagh which recorded 11%, Derry City/Strabane and Antrim/Newtownabbey were both on 9%. In UK terms this level of growth was in the top half of the country’s subregions. Mid and East Antrim saw productivity decline by 10%.

If the increase in economic output is also factored in then at the ‘sub regional’ level NI’s performance would rank in the UK top ten (mirroring Invest NI). Outer London – West and North West was best in the UK with growth of 12% with Inner London – East the worst in the UK at -10%. NI growth was 5%,

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the country was 1,000 higher at 22,000 between November and January; the increase of 0.1% took the overall rate to 2.4%, the lowest in the UK. The NE had the highest rate at 6.2% with the UK rate at 3.9%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 80% which compared with 72.3% in NI where 0.9m are employed; the UK rate was 76.5%.

NI’s  average property price increased by 0.2% to £140,190 in Q4 2019, which took the annual increase to 2.5%. In comparison, UK prices decreased by 1.1% to £231,185 during January, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

NI growth slows and the Province slips down the rankings, a sharp contraction in productivity but the unemployment rate the best in the UK by some way

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For the 12 months ended December 2019, a nowcast published by the Economic Statistic Centre of Excellence (‘ESCoE’) on a rolling 4 quarter basis, has estimated that NI growth has fallen from 1.8% to 1.1%. ESCoE is a partnership of research institutions and the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’).

This ranked the Province eighth (previous ranking second) and suggests the NI economy has not performed well relative to the other eleven parts of the UK. Over the same period UK growth was 1.4%; growth in London (ranked first) was 3.3%; and growth in the East Midlands (ranked twelfth) was 0.1%.

The latest official ONS figures for an earlier period are more mixed. Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September 2019, the ONS has now published its third estimate for the nine English regions and Wales. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013.

These stats are for the period six months before the ESCoE estimates shown above and compare GDP in the quarter ended June 2019 with the same quarter a year earlier. These more volatile figures showed that NI grew by 1%, down from 1.3% growth the previous quarter. This placed the country fourth (previous ranking ninth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’

London topped the table with growth of 4.5% whilst UK growth over the same period was 1.4%. The NW was the worst performer and contracted by 0.7%, one of three ‘regions’ in the UK to suffer a decline.

In the same report, the ONS’s figures highlighted that the standalone quarter to June 2019 was slightly better for NI than the previous quarter. The Province’s economy grew by 0.4% in April to June 2019, following growth of 0.3% in January to March 2019.

This placed the country fifth (previous ranking sixth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’. Six regions of the UK saw their economies contract as did the UK overall by 0.2%. The WM was the worst performer in Q2 with -1.6% whereas London was the best with +1%.

In this period, the Province’s services sector grew by 0.4%, production by 0.2% and the public sector by 0.1%. Construction was a drag at 0.3%.

Productivity

Like most regions of the UK, output per hour in NI was below the UK average. Productivity in the Province was 15.6% under the norm which ranked the region tenth in the UK.

Two regions had productivity above the UK average in 2018, London +31.6% and the South East +9.1%. These regions record high levels of hours worked and their elevated productivity pulls up the UK average so much that all other regions fall below it. Wales was furthest off the average at -17.2%.

NI moved up the rankings to seventh in terms of output per job. This means that on average workers in NI worked longer hours for each job compared with the UK average. The region’s 11.4% below the UK average compared with London at 40.5% above.

In terms of growth in output per hour, six regions of the UK expanded. NI was ranked eleventh as output per hour contracted by 2.0%. At 2.3% growth was fastest in Scotland and the biggest contraction was in Yorkshire and the Humber at 2.5%. UK growth was 0.5%.

Sectorally, productivity in accommodation/service activities was better than expected but the deviation from forecasts in non-manufacturing and agriculture was a UK outlier.

On average, in 2018 the UK economy produced about £35 of value for each hour worked, with finance and insurance top at c£69 per hour compared with accommodation and service activities productivity at c£17 per hour.

Labour

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in NI fell by 1,000 to 21,000 between October and December; the drop of 0.1% moved the overall rate down to a record low of 2.4%, the lowest in the UK. The national rate was 3.8% with the highest rate at 6.1% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West had the highest employment rate at 80.1% which compared with 72.4% or 0.9m in employment in the Province; the UK rate was 76.5%.

In December, average earnings in NI fell by £5 to £537 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £805 and the lowest average earnings of £530 were recorded in the NE. NI was ranked eleventh (previous ranking also eleventh).

In the UK overall, average earnings grew by 2.9% or by 1.4% after inflation. After adjusting for inflation, regular pay is now at its highest level since 2000, whereas total pay (which includes bonuses) is still 3.7% below its peak in February 2008.

Housing

NI average property prices in Q4 2019 increased by 0.2% to £140.190; the uplift took the annual increase to 2.5%. In comparison, UK prices increased by 0.3% to £234,742 during September, an annual growth rate of 2.2%.