Ireland's economy will grow by over three percent this year, as increased exports help the country emerge from the Covid-triggered recession.

That's the forecast from Ireland's employers' group, Ibec, which has warned that the growth is also dependent on an acceleration of the country's Covid-19 vaccination rollout.

The business group has predicted an increase of 3.1 percent this year but admits that unemployment will remain at high levels for the remainder of the year.

The latest forecast from Ibec represents a downgrading of the group's more optimistic outlook just three months ago, when it predicted the Irish economy would grow by 5.3 percent.

It also cautioned that ongoing public health restrictions are likely to prevent a full return to normal trading for the rest of the year.

In its latest quarterly economic outlook, the group's chief economist Gerard Brady said, "An efficient vaccine roll-out might see the start of our recovery in the second half of 2021.

"2021 will not see a return to normal trading in all sectors due to ongoing social distancing and public health requirements, but there is potential for life and commerce to take a more normal rhythm.

"We won't, however, see a return to normal trading and employment in all sectors due to ongoing social distancing and public health requirements."

Despite the potential for a return to normal conditions in the second half of the year, the group believes unemployment will remain north of 15 percent this year, before dropping back down to over nine percent next year.

The group has also warned that inflation is likely to rise to 0.8 percent from -0.3 percent last year, subsequently jumping to 1.5 percent in 2022.

The body also notes that restrictions for the first three months of this year have been some of the hardest for the Irish economy since the start of the pandemic.

Brady added, "Lockdown measures in the first part of the year have been tough and protracted, placing additional pressure on the economy, with particular disruption to the labor market."

A separate report has found that one in every two households across Ireland expects the economy to improve over the coming year, with 44 percent of businesses anticipating trading to improve in the next three months.

The Bank of Ireland Economic Pulse survey reported that firms in each of four sectors -- industry, services, retail, and construction -- upgraded their near-term expectations for activity and hiring this month.

Meanwhile, despite the ongoing struggles facing the economy, it appears that Ireland's dentists have a big reason to smile following reports that cosmetic dental procedures have gone "off the Richter scale" since the start of the pandemic.

Caroline Robins, chair of the GP committee of the Irish Dental Association said, "The number of people who've come in to get bondings and straightening and all sorts of cosmetic work. It's really gone off the Richter scale. Zoom has a lot to answer for."

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