Rock bottom: official stats finally reveal impact on NI economy

Official statistics have finally revealed the scale of the much talked about economic impact on two key parts of the Northern Ireland economy. Following news earlier in the week that Northern Ireland posted its first quarterly decline in employee jobs in four-and-a-half years, figures today show a staggering slump in output. Both the Index of Services and Index of Production posted record rates of decline. Like a game of snakes and ladders, the COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a big snake taking industrial and services output back to square one or new series lows.

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Tipping point for the NI labour market?

Resilience in the face of recession – Throughout the pandemic many key labour market indicators have not been sending out distress signals.  For example, the number of employee jobs in Q1 was a record high and unemployment remained close to its all-time low. That doesn’t sound like an economy in the midst of its deepest recession on record. Unprecedented levels of support, not least from the Job Retention Scheme, have prevented employment falling off a cliff. A range of interventions have meant that while the UK economy experienced one of the sharpest declines in output (GDP) of any economy in Europe, employment within the UK has (for now) held up better than almost all of its former EU counterparts. Incidentally, the Republic of Ireland is at the other end of the league table for both measures – i.e. the RoI has experienced one of the shallowest recessions in terms of GDP but one of the deepest declines in employment within the EU.

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Last orders for record labour market highs?

Labour market stats Q42018

The labour market continues to be a source of positivity amidst the Brexit gloom. Northern Ireland’s employment rate – the proportion of people of 16-64 year olds working – hit a record high of 70.9%. Meanwhile the headline unemployment rate in the three-months to January 2019 is an eye-catching 3.5%. However, amongst the raft of labour market statistics the most meaningful jobs barometer was the Quarterly Employment Survey for Q4 2018. Continue reading

Pricing Status? It’s complicated

To listen to consumers and the media, you would think that price is all that matters. Whether it’s house prices, holidays, the latest bargains, mobile phone contracts or even the price of a pint of beer, all people seem to focus on is the cost. And in many cases, price is indeed key. Think back to when chocolate bar companies shrunk their products rather than raise their prices, or how big a deal some retailers make out of their Boxing Day Sales and Black Friday deals. However, price isn’t always all that matters for consumers. Price, and what we’re prepared to pay, it turns out, is a complex thing.

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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

Spreadsheets tell the real story of Phil’s latest Budget

Today’s Budget speech may not have been the most exciting ever, but it was possibly the most future-focused. Indeed, Philip Hammond used the word ‘future’ 33 times at the dispatch box this afternoon, and focused heavily on measures relating to, for instance, first time homebuyers, the technology sector, electric cars. In contrast, there was no mention of pensioners and little to appeal directly to that particular demographic. This perhaps marks a new era of more youth-friendly Budgets. Continue reading

NI house-building recovery running out of steam?

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The UK housing market is tipped to feature prominently in the Chancellor’s Budget. A range of initiatives are expected to be unveiled, targeted primarily at the younger generation. There are calls for a shift in emphasis from ‘Help to Buy’ to ‘Help to Build’ schemes. It remains to be seen how Northern Ireland will benefit from these. But it’s worth considering how the Northern Ireland housing building sector is currently faring. Continue reading