Two years on from Brexit vote, EU’s more fundamental problems resurface…

This month marks two years since the Brexit vote, and in the intervening period, we have become fixated with the relationship between the UK and the EU. However, in many respects what is going on within the EU itself is potentially even more significant, and the next two years could be defining for the bloc.

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Inflation eases but cost of living squeeze hasn’t gone away

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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

Noisy car sales?

New car sales traditionally provide a useful barometer of consumer confidence. In recent months, however, interpreting the figures requires a degree of caution given the significant volatility, in the car sales. Tax changes, the weather and the timing of Easter have all affected the volume of new cars sold and the annual growth rates over the last 12-15 months. This ‘noise’ can misrepresent the genuine underlying trends.

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Full employment or full of inactivity?

In the economic and political world, the term ‘full employment’ has come back from the dead. It was a prevalent term back in the days of Franklin D Roosevelt in the 1940s and Martin Luther-King advocated for it in the 1960s. It also crept back into political parlance in the dying days of George Osborne’s chancellorship in the UK around 2014. Today, we’ve heard it reemerge in the US, where the Fed has said that the US economy is “at or a little beyond full employment”, to some degree in the UK, and it hit the headlines a few weeks ago locally, prompted by a 280-character tweet by yours truly.

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