Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Flat is the new black as daunting GDP figures get the human touch

Economic data can seem daunting on occasion but often it can all be explained away by some very human factors.

Take yesterday's GDP figures. The 1% increase in output during the third quarter of the year was hugely impressive but the accompanying cold water which is poured on such figures by opposition politicians hinted that there was some digging to do.

We all knew the 0.4% dip in the second quarter of the year was exaggerated by the Diamond Jubilee Bank Holiday, one where we were apparently lounging around and bringing down productivity.

Then the recent fillip in the latest quarter up to the end of September is thought to have been caused by the Olympic Games, ones where we were apparently spending money on Olympic tickets, Mo Farah T-shirts and other paraphernalia.

So that explains away the jump in GDP, doesn't it?

Well not quite, because even if you strip away those distorting factors we're still in positive territory with 0.4% growth.

Great news but you're probably thinking that a good result for the whole of the UK doesn't mean Northern Ireland is blushing with economic health.

Maybe not but at this stage of the long-drawn out game we should be more than happy with a draw, something most economists reckon represents our own position.

Our flat growth, although a slighlty confusing phrase, is better than the decline of the last 18 consecutive quarters.

So while we're taking the GDP data with a healthy amount of scepticism, there's no denying that flat may be the new black.