Look beyond the economic headlines


If there’s one thing that 2016 has perhaps taught us, it’s that you have to be wary of headlines. When it came to both the EU referendum debate and the US Presidential election, partisan UK and US media organisations often dominated public discourse with overly-simplified headlines that didn’t do justice to complex and nuanced stories. Continue reading

Women lead the way in labour market figures


The headlines in Northern Ireland’s latest labour market statistics make for pleasant reading.

Unemployment is continuing to fall and fresh record highs and lows were established for the employment and economic inactivity rates respectively.

However, these headlines conceal a significant divergence with respect to gender. Continue reading

Mancession has been and gone but challenge to activate the inactive remains

Economy photo

Throughout much of the downturn inflation and unemployment moved in the same direction – upwards. This combination was bad news for households’ budgets and the economy as a whole. 2013 proved to be a year of divergence with an economic recovery leading to falling levels of unemployment. However, with the annual rate of inflation remaining stubbornly above the Bank of England’s 2% target, a meaningful recovery in households’ finances was deferred. More recently, the collapse in the oil price has punctured the ‘cost of living crisis’ narrative. Rates of consumer price inflation and unemployment are again moving in the same direction. This time, however, it is good news for the labour market, households and the overall economy.

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NI’s male unemployment rate is falling rapidly

Economy photo

Another encouraging set of headlines as far as the latest unemployment figures are concerned. Northern Ireland’s claimant count fell for the 24th consecutive month in December with the number of individuals claiming unemployment benefit decreasing by 900 last month. This takes Northern Ireland’s total claimant count to 50,200 which represents the lowest level since June 2009 and some 14,600 below the recent peak in December 2012. Despite this steady decline in unemployment over the last two years, almost two-thirds of the rise in claimant count unemployment that occurred during the downturn remains. A return to the pre-recession record low of 23,500 in the summer of 2007 is not expected under any scenario in the future. Whilst the trend of falling rates and levels of unemployment is encouraging, Northern Ireland still compares unfavourably with other UK regions. Northern Ireland’s claimant count unemployment rate of 5.7% is more than double the UK rate and the highest of all the UK regions.

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