Weekly Brief – Shifting sands

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.

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Employment falls for first time in four years

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.

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Time to put purpose before profit?

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.

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Wrong direction

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.

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Slowest rise in output in 23 months

Today sees the release of September data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by IHS Markit – signalled a further loss of growth momentum across the local private sector. Business activity, new orders and employment all rose at weaker rates, while sentiment dropped to the lowest in the 19-month series history. Rates of both input cost and output price inflation remained elevated, but continued to ease at the end of the third quarter.

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