Mid Ulster economy hit hard by Covid measures

Unemployment figures in Mid Ulster increased by an incredible 117 per cent in April as the effects of lockdown hit the area hard.

Thursday, 4th June 2020, 11:43 am
A welder at work. . PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON/Pacemaker

And Mid Ulster District Council’s challenging economic position has been laid bare in an academic assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on local council finances.

A discussion paper published by the Ulster University highlights a revised estimate of the potential economic consequences of COVID-19 in Northern Ireland.

With regards to Mid Ulster, the paper suggests this area will be among the worst in terms of impact to the district’s employment rate and its gross value added (GVA).

The Ulster University’s Economic Policy Centre (UUEPC) estimates that Mid Ulster will see a total of 22,900 employees furloughed or laid off. In Quarter Four of 2019 there were a total of 59,500 employees working in Mid Ulster, in percentage terms this will be a decrease of 38.5 per cent, making the district the worst for job furlough and lay-offs.

As a consequence, the paper estimates that the district will see a 16.3 per cent decline in GVA in 2020. The paper also claims Mid Ulster suffered the worst Q2 GVA decline in Northern Ireland at minus 45.4 per cent.

In 2008-09 Mid Ulster’s decline in GVA was measured at minus 15.6 per cent.

The only two council areas where less than 30 per cent of employees will be impacted by furlough or lay-offs are, the report claims, are Belfast and Derry City and Strabane.

In April 2020, Mid Ulster’s claimant count grew by 117 per cent as 1,845 people signed on.

In its chapter focusing on the potential impact in local government districts, the paper notes the economic impact will not be felt equally across Northern Ireland.

It also claims that manufacturing jobs are at high risk and the council area with the highest proportion of these types of jobs is Mid Ulster. The report also lists the two other sectors in which Mid Ulster has the highest number of jobs, construction and mining and quarrying, as sectors where jobs are at medium risk.

The paper notyd that expectations of a V shape recovery have weakened with many forecasters “not expecting economic output to recover to 2019 levels until 2022 at the earliest”.

It also noted that the UUEPC estimates a contraction in economic output in 2020 of 12.7 per cent, greater than the 9.6 per cent contraction it had previously predicted.

Commenting on the report, the new Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Cathal Mallaghan, called on central government to provide a bespoke package tailored to address the specific needs of each local government district’s recovery.

“Our GVA is estimated to decline by 16.3 per cent which is the highest of all 11 council areas,” said the Council Chair.

“The number of employees furloughed or laid off also shows the highest change, at 38.5 per cent more than in the final quarter of 2019, we cannot underestimate the very real challenges which we face in terms of our economic recovery.

“The Council continues to call for a bespoke intervention from central government to address the very specific needs of our industrial sectors, as well the other sectors identified, including retail and hospitality”.

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