Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Great news, but we ain't out of dippy-do

David Elliott.
David Elliott.

The downturn with a difference just keeps on giving. Despite a few signs of economic impetus, the economy is still stuttering along at the bottom but amazingly unemployment is proving robust.

Yes it's been increasing over the last few quarters but as the data on these pages shows it has actually fallen over the latest quarter.

Take a step back a few years and the current jobs market goes against the expectations of economists who thought companies would have been shedding jobs like a holiday camp in September. Tell them Northern Ireland would be hovering around 8% unemployment and they'd definitely be perplexed.

It turns out, as Sir Digby Jones explained so elequently on the radio yesterday, that companies have been retaining staff during the downturn at the expense of wage rises and productivity. That means when we come out of the "dippy-do" – a term I am ecstatic to confirm the ex-CBI head used on Radio 4 – and demand starts picking up, companies will still have the trained staff and capactity to meet the bulging order book.

That's very true but there's still a big hill to climb if we're to get back to the halcyon days of June 2008.

Then the number of people in work here stood at around 733,000. Now it's around 693,000.

We've had a great run of job announcements over the last few weeks but before we start to get complacent, we need to realise what else there is to do. To put it into perspective, even at 1,000 new jobs a month it would still take us until the tail end of 2016 before we get back to the ruddy-cheeked health of 2008.

That's not a criticism of the jobs that have already been created, merely a reality check so the Treasury knows our economy is far from out of the dippy-do.

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