Smile. Unemployment is 4% in the UK. Last seen when Derby County won the league, Harold Wilson was PM and ‘Make me smile (come up and see me)’ topped the charts. We’re practically German (3.4%). Employment rose 42k in Q2, full time jobs up 105k (so a fall in part time). True, the money’s not great. Average pay growth slipped to 2.4%y/y in June, barely above the preferred measure of inflation (2.3%). We’re treading water. Otherwise, it’s hard to fault the figures. Jobs are more secure and ¾ of the increase in jobs are high skilled. Many may be on holiday. But the labour market certainly isn’t.
Today’s hike in interest rates is certainly important, symbolically at least, with Bank rate moving above the emergency level introduced straight after the financial crisis for the first time.
There’s no shortage of information on the housing market, telling us how prices and sales activity for instance are changing on an annual, quarterly or even monthly basis. These surveys are important and give us a flavour of how the market, which is a key part of the economy, is performing. But there is a danger that we get too fixated on these numbers and miss a more important trend.
The squeeze on living standards hasn’t gone away
In recent months an emerging narrative has been that the squeeze on UK living standards has relaxed or even ended. This refers to the pace of annual earnings growth overtaking inflation. However, real earnings growth remains modest at best. Meanwhile the squeeze continues for public sector workers on pay caps (1% p.a.) and households experiencing a multi-year freeze on working-age welfare benefits (until 2020). In light of the fact that the price of necessities including utility bills, motoring costs, rates bills and private sector rents (for Northern Ireland) are all rising at substantial rates and above the headline rate of inflation, it is premature to talk of a meaningful end to the cost of living squeeze. Continue reading
A graph charting instances of house prices being discussed at dinner parties across Belfast and Dublin would show a very large spike around 2007 followed by a deep trough in the years after the boom rediscovered gravity. Indeed, the subject became almost taboo as the downturn unfolded and residential property prices fell almost 60% from their respective peaks.
A graph charting instances of house prices being discussed at dinner parties across Northern Ireland would show a very large spike around 2007 followed by a deep trough in the years after the boom rediscovered gravity. Indeed, the subject became almost taboo as the downturn unfolded.
One swallow a summer does not make, but two swallows? Probably still not enough for a turning point, however much we’d like the UK to crack its productivity problem.
As we approach the 10th anniversary of Northern Ireland’s house price peak (and subsequent correction), we’ve been seeing some encouraging signs in the housing market across a range of indicators. Despite the ongoing recovery over the last few years, though, it is fair to say that this does not mean we are ‘recovered’. Indeed, ‘a recovery’ in house prices / house building back to the freak peaks of 2006/2007 is neither expected nor viewed as desirable. Continue reading
President Trump has promised to unveil a spectacular reform of the US tax system in the next few weeks to boost the economy. Meanwhile the labour market has been producing spectacular results itself.
Ambitious. The number of Americans in work rose by 227,000 in January and the unemployment rate held steady at 4.8%. During President Obama’s second term employment increased by 12 million (8%), impressive alongside the UK’s still-respectable 3%. President Trump aims to add 25 million jobs over a decade. That’s very ambitious indeed but there are historical precedents: both the Reagan and Clinton administrations saw rates of job growth that, if repeated, would see the target being met. But they both arrived at the White House towards the end of recessions, Trump’s task is harder.
Just when you think it’s cooling, it comes back again. The housing market seems to be regaining a bit of momentum. But it’s not surprising. The UK won’t break its bad habit of not building enough houses. It would do the economy the world of good if it did. Continue reading