Coronavirus: NI faces ‘deep and prolonged economic downturn’

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Last week, Bombardier Aerospace announced it is cutting 600 jobs at its Northern Ireland operations.

Northern Ireland faces rising unemployment, sharply reduced foreign investment and Brexit complications, the economy minister has warned.

The sobering assessment is contained in an economic recovery plan published by Diane Dodds.

The plan is intended to tackle the challenges of the next 18 months.

It includes a focus on improving skills and supporting strategically important sectors.

“Our people are our key asset so developing the skills base of our young people and workforce will remain central to our economic success,” said Mrs Dodds.

“We also intend to focus on sectors where there is a potential for growth in higher paying jobs such as life and health sciences, advanced manufacturing, clean energy and big data.”

On Tuesday, official figures showed unemployment in Northern Ireland had risen to its highest level since 1997.

‘Prolonged economic downturn’

The report, Rebuilding a Stronger Economy, says it is “inevitable that we are facing a deep and prolonged economic downturn”.

It warns unemployment will keep rising and that foreign direct investment is likely to be greatly reduced in the short and medium term.

It adds that these issues could be could be further compounded by the operation of the NI Protocol and Brexit more generally.

The report says that some of the structural weaknesses of the NI economy will need to be tackled for a sustained recovery.

Those include too few higher-paying jobs, a skills gap and regional imbalances.

The report says that re-skilling people who lose their jobs will need a particular focus.

Meanwhile, Mrs Dodds also announced the membership of her Economic Advisory Group: It will be lead by Ellvena Graham, the former head of Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland.

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