NI the only part of the UK to post negative growth in 2018, Mid and East Antrim sees the biggest decrease in GDP and Ards and North Down has the overall lowest, more recent data underpins the Province’s robust labour market

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Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September, the ONS has now published its 2018 full year estimate of economic activity by UK country, region and local area using gross domestic product.

The figures showed the NI economy contracted by 0.5% in 2018 down from growth of 1.7% in 2017. This placed NI 12th (2017 ranking sixth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’

The UK and England growth rate in 2018 was 1.4%. Scotland grew by 0.9% and Wales by 1.3%.

Within the Province, the Lisburn and Castlereagh economy grew the fastest at 4.8%, followed by Mid Ulster at 3.5% and Belfast at 0.9%. Across the UK, the highest annual growth of the 179 local areas was in Falkirk at 10.5%.

Eight areas of NI saw their GDP decline in 2018. Mid and East Antrim recorded the biggest drop in the UK at 10.1%, followed by Fermanagh and Omagh at 2.7% and Antrim at 2.5%.

GDP per head growth of 3.6% to £25,918 was seen in Lisburn and Castlereagh although at £44,332 Belfast was top. GDP per head fell by 10.5% in Mid and East Antrim to £29,885 but Ards and North Down was bottom in the Province (and UK) with £15,034.

In terms of UK extremes, GDP per head in Camden and the City of London was £395,309 with Ards and North Down one of three NI areas in the UK bottom ten. These figures are a guide and are influenced by commuter flows.

In 2018, key drivers of the NI economy were information and communication up 6.0%, arts/entertainment 4.4% and administrative support services 3.7%. Those areas that did not perform well were agriculture down 9.3%, public administration/defence 5.5% and finance and insurance declined by 4.9%. Overall the services shrank by 0.6%, construction fell by 5.4% and production dropped by 0.5%.

The 2018 performance of the Province’s development agency was also highlighted by the ONS. Of the UK’s 45 development bodies or economic regions, Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP was ranked first in the UK with growth of 2.8%. Invest NI dropped down the rankings from 25th to 40th with negative growth of 0.5%. Tees Valley LEP was last with negative growth of 2.1%.

Recent data from the ONS is more positive. Unemployment in NI dropped by 5,000 to 20,000 between August and October 2019; the large drop of 0.6% took the overall rate to 2.3%, the lowest in the UK. The national rate is 3.8%. The highest rate was 6.1% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West had the highest employment rate at 80.8% which compared with 72.4% in NI. The UK rate was 76.2%.

UK property prices grew in only three parts of the country. Growth of 2.3% in NI during Q3 took prices to £139,951, an annual increase of 3.3%, the biggest uplift in the UK. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.7% to £232,944, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.

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