Last year was a record year for both the UK and Northern Ireland labour markets. Employment has never been higher and unemployment (for Northern Ireland) has never been lower. Given these labour market conditions one would assume that consumer confidence must be strong too? Not so. Previously having a job, or not having one, was a key determinant of whether a household or individual was in poverty. Over the last decade, however, a sustained period of below inflation wage growth and cuts to working-age welfare benefits has squeezed disposable incomes for those in work too.
Northern Ireland’s record breaking labour market has been in the spotlight for quite some time. The focus has been on unemployment hitting all-time lows and the number of jobs reaching all-time highs in Q2 2019. In terms of job numbers, Northern Ireland’s labour market is clearly in a good place, having recovered all the jobs lost in the recession and created tens of thousands of additional jobs too. But what about wages and earnings?
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%.
When analysing economies the world over, the unemployment rate is arguably one of the most important go-to statistics. It enables comparisons to be drawn and inferences made on the relative health of different economies. Today’s labour market statistics revealed that Northern Ireland’s headline unemployment rate fell to a jaw-dropping low of 2.9% in Q1 2019. This represents the lowest unemployment rate on record and the joint-second lowest of all the UK regions. Not only does it compare favourably with the UK (3.8%), but it is also below the likes of the United States (3.6%), the Republic of Ireland (5.4%) and Germany (3.2%). Japan is one of the few world economies with a lower unemployment rate (2.5%) than Northern Ireland.
During the three months to November 2018, Northern Ireland’s unemployment rate fell to 3.4%. This compared with 4.1% in the previous quarter and was close to the record low of 3.1% posted in the Q1 2018. Continue reading
Last week’s snow induced disruption will have heaped pressure on sectors like retail, leisure and construction. Firms will have to fight hard amid cancellations to manage cash flow and clear backlogs. It might even knock a tenth of a percent or two off Q1 GDP growth. But it is consumers’ attitudes to borrowing which is raising bigger questions for the health of the economy.
Official figures continue to point to a buoyant Northern Ireland labour market in the third quarter of 2017. Private sector jobs notched up a thirteenth consecutive quarterly rise and are at their highest level since records began in 1974. Public sector job losses have stabilised (at least for the time being) and are around 10% below their 2009 peak. Overall, Northern Ireland has almost 19,000 more jobs (+3%) than at the pre-recession peak. Significantly, there has been a pick-up in full-time employment growth in Q3 which had previously been lagging behind the surge in part-time employment.
As far as positive headlines are concerned, Northern Ireland’s labour market statistics have been a source of rich pickings over the last 18 months. Once again today’s batch of data raises an eyebrow or two. Chief amongst these is the fall in the ILO unemployment rate – to 4.0% in Q3. This represents the lowest unemployment rate since Q2 2008 and compares with a record low of 3.2% in the summer of 2007. Continue reading
Depending on what statistics you look at, Northern Ireland’s labour market has either taken a turn for the better or a turn for the worse. Continue reading
For years now it has been a struggle to find anything positive to write about the Eurozone economy. Plagued by slow growth, high unemployment and intermittent sovereign debt crises it has been the developed world’s economic problem child. It’s too early yet to declare victory in the war against poor economic performance but there are signs that the region is staging a sustained, if modest recovery. Continue reading