THE ‘Celtic Phoenix’ economy is growing more strongly than expected – with wages rising and full employment on the horizon.

The Central Bank says the pace of the recovery has “exceeded expectations” as it predicted an extra 89,000 people will be in work by the end of next year.

This would bring the total number with a job to around 2.3 million – well ahead of the previous peak of 2.24 million seen in 2007 at the end of the Celtic Tiger years.

Economic growth is being supported by strong and broad-based growth in employment, the Central Bank argued in an upbeat assessment of the health of the economy – its first this year.

This in turn is boosting incomes and encouraging people to get out and spend, it added. Other components of the domestic economy, like construction, have also grown strongly. “The recovery has probably exceeded expectations, yes,” said Mark Cassidy, the Central Bank’s new director of economics and statistics.

The economy, in GDP terms, will grow by 4.4pc this year – up from the 3.9pc forecast that the Central Bank gave in the autumn. But Mr Cassidy said there was no sign at present that the economy was overheating.

Meanwhile, the number of people taking out a mortgage is back to levels last seen at the peak of the property boom.

Some 35,000 people drew down a home loan last year, with half of these first-time buyers.

The number of draw-downs in the last three months of 2017 was the highest since 2008.

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