Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index Quarter 1 2021

Date published: 08 July 2021

The Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI) Q1 2021 was published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRA).

NICEI Q2 2021 published
NICEI Q2 2021 published

Key points

NI Economic output decreased over the quarter and the year:

  • The NICEI indicates that economic output decreased by 1.6 per cent over the quarter to March 2021. Meanwhile economic output in the year to March 2021 decreased by 0.6 per cent in real terms compared to the same period in the previous year ie Quarter 1 2020.
  • The decrease in the NICEI over the latest quarter (1.6 per cent) was driven by decreased activity in the Services, Construction and Production sectors; which had negative contributions of 1.1 percentage points (pps), 0.6 pps and 0.2 pps respectively. This was partially offset by an increase in the Public sector jobs index (a contribution of 0.1 pps).

NI economic activity and UK GDP decreased at a similar rate over the quarter. Over the year NI economic activity fell at a slower rate than UK GDP:

  • Although the measures are not produced on a fully equivalent basis, comparisons with the UK show that UK GDP decreased at a similar rate over the quarter (decreasing by 1.6 per cent) and experienced a comparatively larger decline over the year (6.1 per cent) to Q1 2021.

The Private sector declined over the quarter and over the year whereas the Public sector increased over the quarter and the year:

  • Private Sector output as measured by the NICEI decreased over the quarter (2.2 per cent) and over the year (1.1 per cent). While, the NICEI Public Sector index increased over the quarter (0.3 per cent) and over the year (0.9 per cent).
  • For the Private sector, average growth for the four quarters to Quarter 1 2021 compared to the previous four quarters decreased by 7.7 per cent. Whilst the Public sector (employee jobs) index increased by 0.8 per cent over the same period.


  • The NICEI indicates the decrease in economic growth over the quarter, year and rolling annual average to Q1 2021 was largely driven by the decline in the Services sector. The Production and Construction sectors contributed to negative growth over the quarter and rolling annual average, but contributed positively over the year.    
  • Economic activity had increased gradually in recent years following the prolonged downturn post 2007 up to the onset of the pandemic.  Over the last two quarters the rate of change is more consistent with the longer term NICEI trend. The severest impact of the pandemic can be observed in Quarter Q2 & Q3 2020 when the NICEI index achieved the highest and lowest Quarter on Quarter growth rates in the series resulting in a pronounced ‘V’ in economic activity. 
  • While not fully equivalent, the NICEI estimates of output in NI and the ONS estimates of UK GDP show that both economies decreased over the quarter both decreasing by 1.6 per cent.  NI economic output decreased at a slower rate than the UK both over the year (-0.6 per cent for NI against -6.1 per cent for the UK) to Q1 2021 and also decreased at a slower rate on a rolling annual average comparing the last four quarters to the previous four quarters (-5.8 per cent for NI against -10.8 per cent reported for the UK).
  • The level of economic activity in NI currently sits 8.7 per cent below the maximum value recorded in Q2 2007 whilst UK GDP is estimated to be 3.5 per cent above its pre-economic downturn peak.

Notes to editors: 

1. The statistical bulletin and associated tables are available at the NI Composite Economic Index page on the NISRA website.

2. The NISRA Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI) is a quarterly measure of the performance of the Northern Ireland (NI) economy based on available official statistics.

3. The NICEI combines existing published quarterly indices (i.e. Index of Services (IOS), Index of Production (IOP), Quarterly Construction Enquiry (QCE)), public sector employee jobs data from the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES), and unpublished agricultural output data from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).  These indices are weighted using ONS Regional Accounts Gross Value Added (GVA) data to provide a proxy measure of total economic output in the NI economy on a quarterly basis.

4. The NICEI output measures relate to the first quarter (January - March) of 2021. These estimates are based on surveys of businesses and estimates of change are subject to sampling error. Figures for a quarter may be revised if more complete information subsequently becomes available.

5. The NICEI back series is calculated each quarter, typically the revisions to the NICEI are reasonably minor.  The revisions this quarter were more noticeable, further information is available in the detailed statistical bulletin available on the NI Composite Economic Index page on the NISRA website.

6. This report will be of interest to Ministers, policy makers, public bodies, the business community, banks, economic commentators, academics and the general public with an interest in the local economy.

7. Further information and tables from each of the data sources are available on the NISRA website.

8. For media enquiries, please contact DfE Press Office at

9. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

10. Follow us on Twitter.

Share this page

Back to top