We’ve published a new virtually recorded Ulster Economix: The Podcast episode – hosted by Ulster Bank Chief Economist, Richard Ramsey.
Traditionally a month renowned for its beer festivals and socialising, October is shaping up to be quite the opposite, with the second wave of restrictions hitting the hospitality sector. These have been applied to varying degrees across the UK and in the Republic of Ireland.
With the daily COVID-19 cases surging across much of Europe, any hopes of a V-shape recovery have been snuffed out.
So what the local economy in Northern Ireland? what is the incoming economic data and news telling us about the economy and the strength of the recovery?
Retail sales may look strong, but that can’t mask the pronounced weakness in other parts of the UK economy, especially with second-wave restrictions pulling down on the recovery. The government stepped in with more policy support last week. The Bank of England might just have to follow suit.
With a reality check on the recovery having been provided in recent weeks, forecasters are beginning to trim their expectations for the recovery in 2021. While labour market data underlines how the damage to date has been felt most keenly by the young.
For decades, the most important basic skills taught in schools were the Three “Rs” – reading , (w)riting and ‘rithmetic. In recent decades, becoming ICT literate has been added to these functional skills of literacy and numeracy. While the texting and Xbox generation have become adept at embracing technology, more so than older generations, the same is not necessarily true for literacy and numeracy. Too many of our young people leave school without mastering these basic skills. This leaves them ill equipped for the world of work and dealing with life in general. Are we doing enough to address this? Every August (bar the one just passed) social media is awash with stories on results day. Best grades ever etc. You would be forgiven for thinking we had a world class education system. That holds true for some but it is a lousy system for a significant number of others. Northern Ireland society’s fixation with school league tables breeds a one-dimensional view of educational performance. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland continues to churn out a higher proportion of school leavers without any qualifications than any other UK region. This fact receives little airtime but we can’t sweep it under the carpet. We have an unusually high tolerance threshold for this failure in our education system. This is surprising when you consider the cost associated with the social problems that flow from these sub-optimal education outcomes.
Customarily a month renowned for beer festivals, October is shaping up to be quite the opposite this year with restrictions around the hospitality sector to varying degrees across the UK. Indeed, time has been called across the pubs in Scotland’s central belt. Daily Covid-19 cases continue to surge across much of Europe, snuffing out any glimmer of hope for a V-shaped recovery. The ball is in the policymakers’ court, yet again.
Today sees the release of September data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by IHS Markit – showed that business activity continued to increase as new orders broadly stabilised. That said, sharp reductions in employment were recorded again. On the price front, companies raised their charges for the first time in three months in response to higher input costs.
Comment on today’s SMMT Northern Ireland New Car Sales figures for September 2020.
Northern Ireland’s new car sales recovery appears to have run out of gas at the end of the third quarter. Local showrooms witnessed a 6% y/y rise in new vehicle sales in Q3 which represented the first quarterly rise since Q2 2019. However, this was driven by sales outperformance in July (+ 17% y/y) and August (+6.6% y/y). Dealers sold 5,010 new cars in September, 2.5% fewer than the same month a year ago. Indeed, last month’s sales represented the weakest September since the SMMT series began. This suggests that the pent-up demand evident within the July and August figures may have been and gone. A few months of post-lockdown outperformance had been expected, but this upswing now seems to be even shorter and more subdued than originally anticipated.
Changes in our behaviour amidst a second wave are becoming ever more apparent. While renewed restrictions are weighing on economic activity in much of Europe – including Northern Ireland. Over in the US, the fear is policy paralysis will undermine the recovery. Buckle up for a bumpy Autumn.
We’re launching an all-new Economics Podcast, available on your favourite Podcast app.
Hosted by Ulster Bank Chief Economist Richard Ramsey, Ulster Economix – The Podcast keeps you up-to-date on the economy in Northern Ireland. The podcast tells you what you need to know each month, but not always what you want to hear.
The summer has been and gone. So what about the local economy? What is the incoming economic data and news telling us about the local economy and the strength of the recovery?
During the month of August, the public were encouraged to Eat Out To Help Out to support the hospitality sector. September it wasn’t so much get out, but get back in. A resurgence in the virus triggered a change in tact from Health Secretary Matt Hancock as he warned the country was at a tipping point with the onset of a second wave of infections.
The Podcast will be available shortly on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.
In the face of increased restrictions and signs of waning economic momentum policy support is being dialled up. While data last week laid bare the mounting level of public debt as revenues decline and spending balloons. Farewell furlough.