The UK labour market remains in rude health, a key support for the household sector. In contrast, US and Chinese retail sales disappointed. Meanwhile, German growth rebounded in early 2019 but the economy remains fragile.
The landscape for UK politics is changing. News that seven Labour MPs and four Conservative MPs have defected to form a new Independent Group highlights the current fragmented state of UK politics. PM May delayed the “meaningful” vote on Brexit to March 12th, adding to the uncertain picture for the UK economy, meanwhile the labour market powers ahead.
Today sees the release of January data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by IHS Markit – indicated that business conditions in Northern Ireland were subdued at the start of 2019 amid Brexit uncertainty. Business activity rose at the weakest pace in 28 months, while new orders increased only marginally. As a result, companies lowered staffing levels for the first time in four years.
2018 will go down as the year of the backstop but it could also be dubbed the year of skills shortages, particularly in sectors such as hospitality and IT. In 2019, it remains to be seen whether the backstop comes into being, but one thing that is for sure is skills shortages will remain a feature and persist throughout the next 12 months and beyond.
Another strong US employment report and improved manufacturing sentiment contrasts with continued lacklustre Euro area growth and a downbeat Chinese PMI survey, highlighting diverging trends in the global economy.
The latest NIJobs.com Jobs Report with Ulster Bank indicates a robust local jobs market at the end of 2018, despite ongoing uncertainty around Brexit and the lack of a functioning local Executive and Assembly.
Good news for the consumer. Not only have average UK earnings posted their largest rise since 2009 but inflation fell more than expected, boosting hopes the recent real income squeeze is coming to an end.
Northern Ireland’s Labour Force Survey (LFS) has been a source of record breaking highs and lows of the positive variety over the last two years. More recently, Q1 2018 witnessed an all-time low unemployment rate of 3.1% with a record number of people in work in the three months to May. However, the subsequent data has seen rising unemployment coupled with a falling number of people in work.