Belfast Telegraph

Brexit worries drive Northern Ireland consumer confidence to its lowest this year

Danske Bank chief economist Conor Lambe
Danske Bank chief economist Conor Lambe
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Consumers in Northern Ireland have been at their lowest ebb for the year so far as the pressures of Brexit uncertainty and rising prices take their toll, a survey said today.

The Danske Bank Consumer Confidence Index also said that people were worried about the continued lack of a power-sharing Executive - which we have been without for more than 600 days.

Today's report measures consumer confidence at 123 for the third quarter, down from 135 a year earlier.

But there was a chink of light, as people said a rise in their wages would make them feel better - and last week's Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) said that at 4.2%, weekly earnings of £521 for full-time staff had increased at their fastest rate since 2015.

Nearly 30% of people surveyed said they felt their financial position had gotten worse over the last year, with just 17% saying they felt their finances had picked up.

And women tended to be gloomier about their finances than men, with only 14% of women feeling better off than a year ago, compared to 20% of men.

Looking ahead, 29% of people surveyed feared that their finances would get worse over the next year, with only 16% expecting things to improve.

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However, young people were more optimistic than older people.

Danske Bank chief economist Conor Lambe (below) said the latest fall in confidence was the second quarterly decline in a row "and resulted in confidence levels hitting their lowest point in 2018 so far".

"Just under a third of people highlighted the local political impasse and the lack of an Executive as the factor that had the largest negative impact on their confidence levels," he said.

"Those surveyed also pointed to high inflation as something which put a dent in confidence."

He said Brexit was also a looming factor for consumer confidence. He said that 13% of people had highlighted the pace of progress during the Brexit negotiations in recent months as the factor which had the biggest negative impact on them.

"A further 11% said the Government's longer-term Brexit objectives affected them most negatively. This compares with just 8% and 6% of people respectively who identified these same two factors as having the biggest positive impact on them," he added.

"It appears the uncertainty around Brexit is an issue not just for businesses in Northern Ireland, but for consumers as well."

Belfast Telegraph