Chief Economist’s Weekly Brief The snowflake economy

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.

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Timely indicator of what’s happening in the jobs market


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.

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Economic inactivity jumps

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

Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – Euro Vision


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

Unemployment rate falls but for the wrong reasons?

During the three months to February 2017, Northern Ireland’s unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage points to 5.2% (UK = 4.7%). This represents the lowest unemployment rate since the period September – November 2008. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s youth unemployment rate (18-24yrs of age) dipped below the 13% mark for the first time in 7 years.  At 12.9% (UK = 10.4%), this is almost half the rate that prevailed at the peak in Q3 2013. Surely, cause for celebration? Continue reading

Chief Economist’s Weekly Brief – The fall

UK businesses appear in decent shape. Turnover is up as are Corporation Tax receipts. Yet sterling has lost roughly one-tenth of its value since June and that’s raising input costs and squeezing profits. A long summer of falling costs boosting profits is coming to an end. Continue reading

Chief Economist’s Weekly Brief – Wait and see

The first full post-referendum week was nothing if not eventful. Financial markets were volatile and uncertainty about economic policy has jumped. We await tomorrow’s publication of the Financial Stability Report and yet another opportunity for the Bank of England’s policy makers to offer their views. Continue reading