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.
Big, expensive, marred by controversy and inherently political. No, not the World Cup. QE. And the final whistle for this extraordinary period for monetary policy is approaching. At least for this round. And there’s always the chance of extra time.
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.
A reversal of fortune in the service sector should hail a return to business as usual for the UK economy.
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.
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.
Rising oil prices means that, like the eponymous shark Jaws, inflation keeps coming back. Manufacturers report tighter margins and consumers face a summer of squeezed budgets. Just when you thought it was over eh!
Not a lot to write home about in last week’s economic data. In the round, it was fairly soft. But at least the public finances are improving. Perhaps important with a certain ‘national institution’s’ 70th birthday on the way. Continue reading
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
Despite strong investment, record employment and (finally) real pay growth, weak spending slows the economy.