Belfast Telegraph

Shopping costs soar since 1998 Agreement was signed

By Clare Weir

The Dole queue is shorter, house prices have risen by 120% and manufacturing jobs have plunged by 25.6% since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, according to new research.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey (below) has compared data from April 1998 to figures from today and has found that everyday shopping items have also skyrocketed in price, with a bag of coal up 141% from £7.16 to £17.30 and a loaf of bread up 138% from 50p to £1.19.

Employee jobs have grown by 96,520, up 15.8%, while annual full time median wages are up 54% from £15,501 to £23,904.

The claimant count back in 1998 was 57,900, which has dropped slightly to 57,800.

Despite the shock steep decline in manufacturing jobs, the services industries are up by 28% and construction jobs, following the boom, bust and now slight recovery, are up 2.2%.

As well as the 120% rise in house prices, from an average of £60,000 to £132,000, first time buyers are now paying an average of £99,000 for their property, as opposed to £48,000 back in 1998, a rise of 106%.

Inflation wise, cumulative rises have been 'significant' with the consumer price index increasing by 40% and the retail price index going up by 56.3%.

This means that as well as bread and coal increasing in price, a nip of whiskey will now set you back £2.50 instead of £1.32, a rise of 90%. Rump steak has also increased in price by 90%, with the cost per kg just £5.11 in 1998, compared to £15.42 currently.

And our two favourite kinds of pint are a lot more expensive than they used to be. Beer is up 79% from £1.87 to £3.34 and milk is up 33% from 34p to 47p a pint.

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A report issued by the Community Relations Council undertaken by Oxford Economics last year, 15 years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed, warned that Northern Ireland is missing out on any dividend from the peace process and that Stormont has no strategy to reverse our economic decline.

Since 1998, there has also been an increase in private sector investment, with major global firms and retailers – which may have shied away from the region during the Troubles – setting up bases here.

As evidenced in Mr Ramsey's figures, there has been a huge shift away from manufacturing as a major source of employment, with traditional industries like shipbuilding and textiles being replaced by IT and call centre jobs.

Harland & Wolff, once the world's biggest shipbuilders, now makes equipment for the renewables and energy sectors while the shirtmaking industry in Northern Ireland has all but disappeared. Business services provider Concentrix announced 1,000 new jobs in Belfast yesterday – an industry almost unheard of in 1998.

Belfast Telegraph

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