Belfast Telegraph

Best to nurture the green shoots of what may turn out to be a recovery

By David Elliott

And so another indicator gives credence to the growing hope the Northern Ireland economy is dragging itself out of the woods.

The quite phenomenal drop in the headline employment rate of 0.7% was the last thing we were expecting in a job market which has been holding its own but has nevertheless been described as sickly.

Not so, it seems as our rate drops below that of the UK average and even pulls that of the 18-24 age group down by 2%.

Quite phenomenal and a big pat on the back for NI plc. The bull is back, roll out the barrel.

But hang on. Put the bull back in the barrel and let's have a closer look at yesterday's data.

(We're not trying to dampen buoyant spirits but merely trying to make sure we don't make the same mistake we made during the boom times when good news was much over-egged).

First of all, that glaring caveat at the bottom of the Labour Force Survey, the one which gives us the unemployment rate.

It said the rate is "accurate to within +/- 1.3%". That might not sound like a lot but is nearly twice the amount by which the reading this quarter moved.

Then there's the big jump in inactivity of 10,000, one which would account for a big chunk of that unemployment fall.

And if you're being really picky, you could say that a survey isn't really reliable and we should really be looking at the claimant count which fell by only 500 over the last month.

These are all worth bearing in mind but there's no doubt the jobs data boosted sentiment.

A few more of these and then there'll hopefully be no holes in the good news to pick.

Belfast Telegraph

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.