Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index Quarter 4 2020

Date published: 08 April 2021

The Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI) Q4 2020 was published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRA).

NICEI Q4 2023 published
NICEI Q4 2023 published

Key points:

NI Economic output decreased over the quarter and the year

  • The NICEI indicates that economic output decreased by 1.4% over the quarter to December 2020.  Meanwhile economic output decreased by 2.8% in real terms compared to the same period in the previous year i.e. Quarter 4 2019.
  • The decrease in the NICEI over the latest quarter (1.4%) was driven by decreased activity in the Services sector; which had a negative contribution of 2.5 percentage points (pps).  This was partially offset by increases in the Construction and Public sectors (a contribution of 1.0 pps and 0.1 pps respectively).

The NICEI indicates that NI economic activity experienced negative growth over the quarter, while UK GDP experienced positive growth.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 experienced positive growth over the quarter (increasing by 1.3%) and a comparatively larger decline over the year (7.3%) to Q4 2020.

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 (2.0%) and over the year (3.7%). Meanwhile, the NICEI Public Sector index increased over the quarter (0.3%) and over the year (0.3%).
  • For the Private sector, average growth for the four quarters to Quarter 4 2020 compared to the previous four quarters decreased by 8.3%. Whilst the Public sector (employee jobs) index increased by 0.8% over the same period.


  • The NISRA NICEI indicates the decrease in economic growth over the quarter, year and rolling annual average to Quarter 4 2020 was largely driven by the decline in the Services sector.  The Production sector contributed to negative growth over the year and rolling annual average.  Meanwhile the Construction sector contributed negatively to the annualised growth. 
  • Whilst Economic activity had increased gradually in recent years, following the prolonged downturn post 2007.  Over the quarter to Quarter 4 2020, the NICEI and Private Sector Component Index have fallen slightly, following the pronounced ‘V’ in the preceding two quarters where the index achieved the highest and lowest Q on Q growth in the series. 
  • The NICEI estimates that output in the NI economy decreased over the quarter, while the UK economy experienced growth over the quarter (-1.4% for NI against 1.3% for the UK).  That said NI economic output decreased at a slower rate than the UK both over the year (-2.8% for NI against -7.3% for the UK) to Quarter 4 2020 and also decreased at a slower rate on a rolling annual average comparing the last four quarters to the previous four quarters (-6.3% for NI against -9.8% reported for the UK).
  • The level of economic activity in NI currently sits 9.5% below the maximum value recorded in Quarter 2 2007 whilst UK GDP is estimated to be 5.1% above its pre-economic downturn peak.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The statistical bulletin and associated tables are available 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 fourth quarter (October - December) of 2020. 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 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, contact the DfE Press Office at
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  10. 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.
  11. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to the Responsible Economist: David Leonard, Economic & Labour Market Statistics Branch (ELMS),  Tel: 028 9052 9385.
  12. Follow NISRA on Twitter  

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