Official figures continue to point to a buoyant Northern Ireland labour market in the third quarter of 2017. Private sector jobs notched up a thirteenth consecutive quarterly rise and are at their highest level since records began in 1974. Public sector job losses have stabilised (at least for the time being) and are around 10% below their 2009 peak. Overall, Northern Ireland has almost 19,000 more jobs (+3%) than at the pre-recession peak. Significantly, there has been a pick-up in full-time employment growth in Q3 which had previously been lagging behind the surge in part-time employment.
While two of the SpaceX rocket boosters landed gently back on terra firma it was a much more turbulent period in the markets. US equities had their worst week in two years and volatility woke from its slumber. The Bank of England also gave the markets a little shake, indicating a rate hike in May is more likely than previously expected. Continue reading
The Ulster Bank NI PMI for January 2018 is out today. It shows a pick-up in growth momentum in the Northern Ireland private sector. Business activity rose at the fastest pace since December 2016 . A sharper increase in input costs was also recorded, however, and companies continued to raise their prices at a marked pace. Continue reading
Economic news from the Eurozone and US was generally very good last week. Bond yields are pushing higher as a result. That’s good news for people worrying about the possibility of more years of slow growth and low interest rates, sometimes called secular stagnation. It’s also a relief to the many firms grappling with big pension deficits. Continue reading
These slides provide an update on the latest figures for the Northern Ireland economy.
2017 highlighted the extent to which Northern Ireland has a high dependency on a small number of large firms. This can be seen in the latest Northern Ireland Economic Composite Index. It showed a fall in the index in Q3 2017, driven by a huge drop in the food beverages and tobacco sector. This dragged Northern Ireland manufacturing output down, falling at its fastest rate since the global recession. This was almost entirely down to the closure of the JTI tobacco factory in Ballymena. Take it out of the equation and it would have been a very different story.
This year, we are also going to see the closure of the Michelin factory in Ballymena, which will hit the manufacturing figures hard again in 2018. And then we have the closure of Schlumberger to come. Changes in things like regulations and costs can lead these foreign-owned companies to make swift decisions to move their operations to other locations around the globe.
Good growth from around the world supports the celebratory tone being struck by leaders in Davos. And this upbeat tenor is certainly being echoed in Northern Ireland with Friday’s news about Bombardier.
Today’s labour market statistics reveal more positive headlines, particularly in relation to unemployment. The headline ILO unemployment rate eased to 3.8% in the three months to November – its lowest rate since August 2007, and moving closer towards the all-time-low of 3.2% (July 2007). Continue reading
The pre-Christmas shopping rush seems to have coincided with inflation’s peak. Consumers and retailers alike will be hoping for an easier ride this year.
Robust growth, according to PMI – The last few days has seen a flurry of surveys released on the health of the Northern Ireland economy. Ulster Bank’s PMI pointed to robust growth across the private sector in Q4 2017. The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) for the same period was not quite as positive as the PMI. Nevertheless, both manufacturing and services firms reported growth in the final quarter of 2017. Overall, the performance was more encouraging for the manufacturing sector than for services firms. Continue reading