The highs and lows of the labour market


The latest batch of Northern Ireland labour market statistics was littered with highs and lows of the positive variety. Of particular note were the record high in Northern Ireland’s employment rate and the record low in the economic inactivity rate. These improvements were due to a notable improvement in female participation in the labour market. Other notable highlights included a record number of people in employment (847,000) in the three months to August 2016. Continue reading

Last orders for low inflation?

Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist, NI, Ulster Bank, commenting on the latest inflation figures, says: “For the last two years or so, UK households have been in the midst of what has been dubbed a consumer sweet spot – low inflation aided by a sustained period of falling food, fuel and petrol prices. But times are changing. The significant fall in the value of the pound has started to fuel import price inflation – while exporters benefit from a weak pound, it is worth remembering we import more than we export. But it will be well into 2017 before we see the main impact of sterling’s depreciation on consumer prices. Continue reading

NI Composite Economic Index

The latest economic output statistics confirm that the Northern Ireland economy was growing strongly in Q2 ahead of the EU referendum result. The Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index expanded at its fastest rate (+1.0% q/q) in almost three years in Q2 2016 and hit its highest level in over 6 years. However, this overall headline performance conceals divergence between the private and public sectors.  While the former remains in expansion mode the latter continues to reduce its headcount in the face of public spending pressures. Continue reading

Chief Economist’s Weekly Brief – Something new

The UK economy may be on the cusp of receiving two new little growth boosts. Firstly, the Chancellor signalled an adjustment in fiscal policy to free up cash for investment. Second, the recent fall in sterling may do what the crisis-driven fall in sterling couldn’t: help generate a sustained export improvement. Both would certainly be welcome. Continue reading

Output and new orders stagnated during September


Today sees the release of September data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by Markit – indicated that output and new orders stagnated amid a reluctance among customers to commit to spending. That said, companies continued to increase staffing levels. Meanwhile, the rate of input cost inflation remained sharp and output prices rose solidly again. Continue reading

Would hard Brexit mean a hard landing for agri-food?

The first hundred days is seen as a critical time in politics. Coined in a 1933 radio address by Franklin D Roosevelt, it is often used to measure the successes and accomplishments of a president during the time that their power and influence is at its greatest. Chief Executives of companies also view their first hundred days as a period in which their authority has to be asserted and their intentions known. Continue reading

Chart of the Month – Economic Surprise Index


More than three months have passed since the UK’s EU Referendum result. Since then we have become all too familiar with three words “Brexit means Brexit”. The economic impact to date could also be summed up in three words: better than expected. The Citi Economic Surprise Indices measure data surprises relative to market expectations.  A positive reading means that data releases have been stronger than expected.  Conversely, a negative reading means that data releases have been worse than expected. During the month of May the incoming UK economic data was much weaker than market expectations, hence the negative readings with the Surprise Index.  However, following the EU referendum on 23rd June there has been a steady stream of better than expected data. Indeed, the UK Economic Surprise Index recently hit a three-year high. Economic indicators ranging from the labour market to retail sales have exceeded the consensus opinion amongst analysts in recent months. While economic conditions following the post-Brexit vote have not been as bad as feared, it is too early to draw any firm conclusions on the economic impact from Brexit.  After all, Brexit hasn’t taken place yet and the UK remains in the EU. Furthermore, we don’t have any clarity on what type of Brexit deal the UK Government envisages or what the EU will accept.

Sterling taking a pounding but will we be trumped by inflation?

When people cast their EU Referendum vote on June 23, I suspect not many would have seen it as a ballot on the price they would pay for their next iPhone. But, in a sense, it was, as the proceeding fall in the value of the pound Sterling has had wide-ranging impacts for the economy – both good and bad – including the price we pay for goods. Continue reading