Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – Hard earned

pexels-photo-40120.jpegWe’re breaking records for the number of people in work, yet more productive jobs are what we really need.

Record breakers. 2016 ended with
the UK’s highest share of people working since we started counting it in the 1970s. At 74.6% the working age employment rate hit a new record and the number in work reached 30.6 million. Continue reading

Three-in-a-row: NI notches up its 3rd year of house price growth

5474802142_e51c292c1b_bThis year will mark the tenth anniversary of Northern Ireland’s house price peak which heralded the start of a sustained period of collateral damage for the wider economy and not just the housing market. Residential property prices peaked in Q3 2007 and subsequently troughed in Q1 2013, down a whopping 57% some 5½ years later. Since then the housing market has been in recovery mode with three successive years of house price growth. For many homeowners the last ten years has represented a lost decade with aspirations blighted by negative equity. However, the combination of house price growth and time (assuming repayments) has seen the incidence of negative equity recede.

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Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – Aim high

aim-high-skyscraperPresident Trump has promised to unveil a spectacular reform of the US tax system in the next few weeks to boost the economy. Meanwhile the labour market has been producing spectacular results itself.

Ambitious. The number of Americans in work rose by 227,000 in January and the unemployment rate held steady at 4.8%. During President Obama’s second term employment increased by 12 million (8%), impressive alongside the UK’s still-respectable 3%. President Trump aims to add 25 million jobs over a decade. That’s very ambitious indeed but there are historical precedents: both the Reagan and Clinton administrations saw rates of job growth that, if repeated, would see the target being met. But they both arrived at the White House towards the end of recessions, Trump’s task is harder.

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Growth of business activity remains solid, but inflationary pressures intensify

Today sees the release of January data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by Markit – pointed to a positive start to 2017, with further increases in output, new orders and employment recorded. That said, rates ofexpansion eased from the end of last year. Meanwhile, price pressures continued to intensify, with rates of inflation for both input costs and output prices among the sharpest in the survey’s history.

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SUVs get the Toblerone treatment

lexus-1938299_1280.jpgWe’ve heard of the Crane Count, the Cappuccino Index, and even the Big Mac Index – each an alternative means of examining and predicting trends in the economy. But analysing the local carpark is perhaps an even more insightful way of understanding the various forces impacting on consumers, companies and economies, from geopolitics to the price of a barrel of oil and movements in the exchange rate. In many respects, the car park is a microcosm of the economy, and having a look at what people use to get themselves from A to B can tell us more than economists’ spreadsheets and even Bank of England briefings. Continue reading

Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – Better than expected

eu-1473958_1920The Bank of England’s upgrade to its GDP growth forecast this year takes it almost back to pre-referendum levels.  Meanwhile the Government published some of its post-Brexit policy goals in a discussion document.

BoostThe Monetary Policy Committee’s new forecasts show GDP growth of 2% for the UK this year. Continue reading

Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – Charm offensive

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Prime Minister Theresa May was in the US for talks with President Trump last week. Securing the basis of the UK-US trading relationship is one of the UK’s biggest economic priorities after Brexit. But care is clearly needed after the US’s withdrawal from the TPP, demands to renegotiate NAFTA and threats of 20% tariffs on Mexico. Continue reading