The cost of living squeeze ends….or does it?

Earnings squeeze is over

The combination of accelerating wage growth and an easing in inflationary pressures is clearly good news for consumers. In February, annual UK wage growth (2.8%) finally overtook the equivalent rate of inflation (2.7%) for the first time since the start of 2017. Following the latest figures for March this trend looks set to continue.  The annual rate of UK consumer price inflation (CPI) eased to 2.5% in March – its weakest rate in twelve months. The price of consumer goods (e.g. food & clothing) inflation eased from 3% y/y in February to 2.4% in March.  Conversely, consumer services inflation nudged higher to 2.5% over the same period.

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Inflation tightens its grip on UK households

Shoppers will increasingly have noticed that the price of their groceries and the cost of filling up at the forecourt have been on the rise. Last month UK consumer price inflation, using the CPI measure, rose by 3% y/y.  This represents the fastest rate of increase since April 2012. Inflationary pressures are more marked within consumer goods (+3.2% y/y) rather than services (+2.7% y/y). Meanwhile the most comprehensive measure of inflation, the CPIH index which includes owner occupiers’ housing costs along with Council Tax (or rates in NI), nudged higher to 2.8% y/y in September. Continue reading

The Cost of Living Crisis, Part Two?

Mark Twain said that whilst history doesn’t repeat itself, it does often rhyme. This may ring increasingly true in the months ahead, as we move into what you might call the cost of living crisis part two. For most of the last parliament, prices were rising faster than wages and the phrase ‘the cost of living crisis’ became extremely well used. However, inflation then eased, wage rises were evident, and consumers actually enjoyed something of a sweet spot. Today, that phenomenon is set to come to an abrupt end, and something of a sequel to the un-consumer-friendly conditions of a few years ago appears to be in train. Continue reading

Chief Economist’s Weekly Brief – Delivering

The UK’s service sector delivered yet again in Q3, propelling the economy to a 0.5%q/q expansion. In the past five years service sector output has risen 14%. Not far behind the 17% rise in the five ‘boom’ years to 2008.  So it’s a robust performance. Higher inflation will provide a test over the coming year. But at least momentum is strong.

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Chart of the Month – Wages still lower than in 2009


Following the economic downturn, one of the primary reasons why households failed to experience the ‘economic recovery’ was due to what was happening with wages. Between 2009 and 2013, the median annual wage for full-time employees in Northern Ireland fell by £2,418 or 9% when adjusted for inflation. Since this low in 2013, annual wages have increased by £1,719 or 7.1% in real terms to £26,069. Despite this wage recovery, annual earnings of NI full-time workers are still  almost £700 below their recent 2009 peak.

Chief Economist’s Weekly Brief

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It’s been a long haul but does normality finally beckon? The minutes of the recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting – the US equivalent of the Monetary Policy Committee – show its members edging close to raising the Fed Funds rate in December. If the Fed’s judgement is correct and growth is sufficiently strong to merit a hike, it would be another indication that the very long shadow cast by the financial crisis is waning.

Northern Ireland’s housing market is also moving slowly but surely away from the shadow of 2008, with residential property prices now +21% higher than their trough. However, they are still 48% below their (freak) peak, so the shadow won’t be totally gone for a while yet.

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