The highs and lows of Northern Ireland economic statistics

This is an important week for understanding what has been going on within the Northern Ireland economy. We had four surveys released yesterday by NISRA – two on the labour market and two on private sector output. Within them, there was a variety of highs and lows, some of which are positive and some of which are concerning.  For the labour market, the two key releases were the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES).  The latter is the most closely watched survey of the number of jobs in the economy. Meanwhile the other two surveys shed light on private sector output in the third quarter. These were the Index of Services and the Index of Production (industrial production / manufacturing output). So what do they tell us about the local economy? Continue reading

Car sales in neutral and signs point to slow lane ahead

New car sales have been on the slide in the UK in 2017. November marked the eight successive year-on-year fall, with UK sales down 11%. England, Scotland and Wales posted double-digit declines last month with Scotland recording the sharpest fall (-24% y/y).  The falls though conceal shifting patterns of demand between fuel types. Sales of petrol cars continue to grow (+5% y/y) while diesel sales plummeted by 31% y/y. Meanwhile the Alternative Fuelled Vehicles (AFV) sector saw sales volume surge by one-third in November. Continue reading

Roadkill or charging ahead?

There is a famous video about the reintroduction of a small number of wolves to Yellowstone National Park. It tells of how this intervention triggered a vast chain of unforeseen events, including forests regenerating, rivers becoming more fixed in their course, and soil erosion stopping. This had fundamental implications for the park’s ecosystem and very physical geography.

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Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – Gently does it

pound-414418_1280 (3).jpgDebt looms large not just in the UK but across major economies. So rate hikes have to proceed very gently.

The producers. A decent August for UK production as output rose by 0.2% on the month. If it manages the same in September then production should rise by 0.9% in Q3, about treble its recent pace. Manufacturing is enjoying a mini-renaissance. Output rose 0.4% on the month and turnover is up 6% on the year. It’s an equal opportunity buoyancy too, benefiting common-or garden manufacturers as well as the high-end techie stuff. What’s not to like? Continue reading

Hurricane means hurricane… but what category will it be?

We are currently in Atlantic hurricane season, and with five major hurricanes to date, it looks like it will be the most active one in around seven years, as well as the costliest ever. With the Brexit vote and Trump, it could also be said that we are moving into a very unsettled economic and political weather system. Indeed, it is perhaps the stormiest forecast, economically and politically, the UK and US have faced since around 2010. Continue reading

Putting the economy first again

Brexit.pngThe tectonic plates of the established global trading system are moving. BRUMP – the Brexit vote and the Trump presidency – have created two fault lines – one in North America and the other in Europe.

2016 therefore looks to have been the peak for trade liberalisation. Moves to create a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal and a European equivalent – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – have already been scuppered by the current US President. These initiatives, years in development, were cancelled with a stroke of a pen earlier this year. Meanwhile Trump’s administration is also seeking to dismantle the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA). Continue reading

Sharpest rise in activity in 2017 so far

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Today sees the release of August data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The Northern Ireland private sector recorded faster rises in output and new orders during August, supporting further job creation. Sterling weakness played an important role in the local economy, helping firms to secure new export orders but also adding to inflationary pressures. Continue reading