Northern Ireland’s labour market statistics have provided a plentiful source of positivity in recent years. Unemployment has hit lows that no economist forecasted and employment has never been higher. The latest batch of data in the Labour Force Survey (June – August 2019) reveals some more record highs (e.g. employment amongst males). However, there are a variety of indicators that suggest that the labour market is on the turn. These signs of a weakening labour market must be placed in the appropriate context; namely, Northern Ireland’s labour market has never been stronger. Indeed, Northern Ireland’s unemployment rate remains at the ridiculously low level of 2.9%, just a shade above last month’s record low of 2.8%.
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.