Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

It's pretty bad, but things could actually be worse

You might not think it but the business desk is filled with eternal optimists.

Despite casting a dark cloud over daily news meetings with our stories of plummeting stock markets, contracting economies and bankrupt companies, we are always on the lookout for tales of successful business. And in this column I'm going to try and be as positive as possible.

For instance, I wasn't going to mention to you that one of the world's largest investment banks Morgan Stanley yesterday fired a warning across the bows of the good ship 'US Economy' and its sister ship the 'Eurozone Economy' to point out that there's an iceberg dead ahead. "Hovering dangerously close to a recession over the next 6-12 months" was the exact phrase but you don't need to work yourself into a tizzy about it.

And sure that other banking behemoth Goldman Sachs' downgrading of its forecast for growth in the global economy to 4% from 4.1% in 2011 definitely is going to pass my lips.

Of course I was definitely going to brush over the latest retail sales figures which show UK shoppers seem to be looking in the window rather than actually slapping their credit cards on the till with growth in the sector climbing a teeny 0.2% in July.

So, without these to sully the day's bright skies, we've had an ask around the learned business community and come up with a few bright sparks. Maybe not bright, but certainly with less of a matte finish.

Well - and I must doff my cap to a number boffin for these particular stats - although this week's labour market stats for Northern Ireland show another rise in unemployment, we should take a relative view of the local economy before getting too down.

Although an unemployment level of 60,400 is certainly not something that will give us cause to celebrate alongside all those that received their A-level results yesterday, we are at least looking better than we were in the not too distant past. For instance, in the mid 80s, Northern Ireland's unemployed level was more than double at 123,000.

Then of course there's the fact more people are actually actively looking for work with the number of 'economically inactive' falling by 13,000 over the quarter from March to May 2011. And of course they aren't chasing their tails because the latest figures for job vacancies from June show there was a whisker shy of 5,000 to go at.

So, there's a lot of gloom out there but if you look hard enough there's always a light at the end of the tunnel, even if the roof of that particular tunnel is caving in (sorry, I did try to end on a positive but I've just looked at where the FTSE 100 ended today).