Time to promote a ‘property-renting democracy’

 There’s no shortage of information on the housing market, telling us how prices and sales activity for instance are changing on an annual, quarterly or even monthly basis. These surveys are important and give us a flavour of how the market, which is a key part of the economy, is performing. But there is a danger that we get too fixated on these numbers and miss a more important trend.

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NI productivity machine continues to misfire

Northern Ireland’s labour market statistics have provided a smattering of record highs and lows of the positive variety in recent months. The monthly Labour Force Survey, which signalled a record low in unemployment last month (3.1% for Q1 2018), played second fiddle to the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES). This is the most closely watched employment survey as it measures the actual number of jobs.

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Output growth quickens to three-month high

Today sees the release of May data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by IHS Markit – signalled that growth in the Northern Ireland private sector picked up, with faster increases in output, new orders and employment recorded. Meanwhile, higher fuel costs contributed to a pick-up in the rate of input price inflation and output prices continued to rise sharply.

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Two years on from Brexit vote, EU’s more fundamental problems resurface…

This month marks two years since the Brexit vote, and in the intervening period, we have become fixated with the relationship between the UK and the EU. However, in many respects what is going on within the EU itself is potentially even more significant, and the next two years could be defining for the bloc.

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Inflation eases but cost of living squeeze hasn’t gone away

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The squeeze on living standards hasn’t gone away

In recent months an emerging narrative has been that the squeeze on UK living standards has relaxed or even ended. This refers to the pace of annual earnings growth overtaking inflation. However, real earnings growth remains modest at best. Meanwhile the squeeze continues for public sector workers on pay caps (1% p.a.) and households experiencing a multi-year freeze on working-age welfare benefits (until 2020). In light of the fact that the price of necessities including utility bills, motoring costs, rates bills and private sector rents (for Northern Ireland) are all rising at substantial rates and above the headline rate of inflation, it is premature to talk of a meaningful end to the cost of living squeeze.  Continue reading