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NORTHERN Ireland is set to enjoy the strongest growth in house prices in the UK over the next four years, with residential property prices predicted to lift from their current average value of around £128,000 to reach £154,000, according to PwC’s latest UK Economic Outlook (UKEO).

The report points to the local market being more resilient than the rest of the UK, where there will be some softening of national property price growth between now and 2022.

Data on annual property price growth reveals thatNorthern Ireland is currently the seventh highest among the UK regions, with PwC forecasting the region will rise to third in 2019 and will top the list by 2022.

But even if prices do increase at this rate, they will still be around 28 per cent lower than the 2007 pre-recession average.

The UKEO says the the Northern Ireland economy is set to growth by a mere 0.8 per cent in 2018 and around 1.2 per cent next year – still well below the forecast UK average of 1.3 per cent and 1.6 per cent, making it the slowest-growing of the UK’s 12 regions.

PwC NI chairman and UK head of regions Paul Terrington said: “The Northern Ireland property market continues to perform better than expected, with a positive balance between earnings and house prices. But prices remain well below their peak level in 2007, and this gap is unlikely to close in the near future.

“We have also considered the effect of future interest rate rises, and believe that only around 11 per cent of UK households would be immediately affected if rates increased.”

The PwC report also highlights the impact that artificial intelligence (AI) may have on UK employment in the two decades to 2037 and, while estimates suggest the overall net effect will be broadly neutral, this is not true for individual sectors.

The most positive effect is seen in the health and social work sector, where PwC expects the number of jobs to increase by nearly one million, equivalent to around 20 per cent of existing jobs in this sector.

On the other hand, the report estimates that the number of jobs in the manufacturing sector could be reduced by around 25 per cent due to AI and related technologies, representing a net loss of nearly 700,000 jobs.

Applying this formula across the UK regions suggests that the impact on Northern Ireland will be broadly neutral, amounting to a net loss of around 4,000 jobs by 2037, considerably less than other industrialised regions.

Mr Terrington said the overall outlook for 2019 was mixed, adding: “The UK economy held up well in the six months after the EU referendum, but growth slowed from early 2017 and continued into early 2018, while higher inflation has squeezed real household incomes, which has taken the edge off consumer-led growth.

“The stronger global economy should continue to have some offsetting benefits for net exports this year, although there are downside risks in 2019 and beyond if recent US tariff policy changes were to escalate into a wider international trade war.

“Brexit-related uncertainty and the absence of any UK-EU agreement may also continue to hold back business investment across the UK while the absence of an Executive and the continued uncertainty around post-Brexit border controls impacting inward and indigenous investment and general business confidence.”

He went on: “The next 12 months will be crucial for Northern Ireland’s medium-term growth, but as at today, the signs are not especially hopeful.”

Source: Irish News

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