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Armstrong concerned construction figures may indicate start of economic downturn

Alliance Infrastructure spokesperson Kellie Armstrong MLA has said she is concerned recent figures revealing growth among Northern Ireland's smaller construction firms has dipped could indicate the start of an economic downturn.

Ms Armstrong was speaking as the Federation of Master Builders State of Trade survey showed the growth among the organisations slowed in the past quarter as opposed to the previous quarter. Activity also rose at a slower pace compared with the previous quarter, with more than two-thirds of construction businesses struggling to hire bricklayers, and 59 per cent struggling to hire carpenters and joiners.

"The construction industry is usually one of the first barometers of the state of the economy. With this news, the signs are there this could be the start of an economic downturn for Northern Ireland, particularly as the industry is only recovering from the last downturn," she said.

"There are several major challenges for the industry in Northern Ireland. These include the lack of sewage infrastructure caused by lack of investment, resulting in NI Water's warnings about house building being suspended in various areas because the waste water treatment works there are insufficient. In addition, Brexit may also have an impact on the access to a skilled workforce, as many construction firms employ immigrants.

"Once again, we are seeing the impact of the lack of a functioning Executive. While civil servants will soon be able to take decisions in the public interest, that does not mean they will be strategic decisions designed to combat any potential economic downturn."