Northern Ireland families have lowest disposable income in UK
Families in Northern Ireland have the lowest spending power of all the UK regions.
That's according to the latest Asda income tracker, which claims they only had £60 a week of discretionary income – the cash left for spending after the essentials are paid for – available to them in September 2013.
That compared to a UK average of £157.
The squeeze on finances is mainly due to higher fuel costs and slow employment growth, the research suggests.
In real terms it means the money that families have to spend after bills have been paid is down £2 a week from the same month last year.
Motorists in Northern Ireland pay more for fuel than anywhere else in the UK, and Asda found that average households here were spending £36.40 a week on petrol compared to a UK-wide figure of £25.60.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research, an economic consultancy, draws up a monthly income tracker for the Asda supermarket chain, examining spending habits and discretionary incomes across the UK.
It concluded that discretionary incomes in Northern Ireland were 3.5% lower in September than the same month in 2012. Northern Ireland has shown signs of economic growth in recent months, although most people's incomes are not rising.
The results of the new research comes after it emerged that fuel prices and home heating oil are expected to rise.
Alarmingly, shopper numbers on Northern Ireland's high streets also fell last month for the second time in a row, according to the latest industry figures.