Timely indicator of what’s happening in the jobs market

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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.

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Chief Economist’s Weekly Brief – Back down to Earth

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

Sharp rise in private sector activity at start of 2018

Employment

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

Chief Economist’s Weekly Brief On the up

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

America first policy temporarily grounded?

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.

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Private sector flat or expanding?

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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