People who have saved money in lockdown should go out and spend to support the economy and protect jobs in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, a top economist has said.
As figures confirmed that the number of people on unemployment benefits has more than doubled since March to reach 65,200, Neil Gibson said spending now instead of saving for a rainy day would prevent the loss of more jobs.
He was speaking ahead of the publication of a plan today by DUP Minster Diane Dodds to reboot Northern Ireland's ailing economy.
Around 212,000 people here are on the Government's job retention scheme, but many fear losing their jobs if their employers do not need them when the furlough scheme runs out in October.
While urging people against spending recklessly, the chief economist of business advisory firm EY Ireland said the post-lockdown economy needed support from the public now.
"It's about helping retailers, leisure destinations, places like the cinema - all those things that have had to close are where we can choose to spend our money when they reopen," Mr Gibson said.
He said that during lockdown many people had saved money on normal expenditure such as petrol, meals out, entertainment and holidays, with record amounts being paid off credit cards during that time.
The Office for National Statistics has estimated around £182 per week of typical household spending has been blocked in lockdown.
And the Bank of England has said that consumer debt fell by £7.4bn in April as people paid down their credit card debt.
While many people have lost their jobs or fear doing so in the future, Mr Gibson said those of us who can afford to do so should spend.
"If people don't spend there will be more job losses. Obviously many people will be nervous, but if you can spend, do - it might save a job or two. Most of Northern Ireland's often-criticised large public sector still have employment, as do others in IT, agriculture, etc," he said.
"So the advice is not to be reckless, but economies only grow and jobs are saved by spending. So if you can, do. Maybe then we can keep less people on furlough from ending up unemployed."
Speaking at an online seminar of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Mr Gibson said: "It will be our responsibility as citizens and as businesses to show confidence in the sectors of our economy that need it most.
"This will require a collective effort to go out for a meal, to buy a coffee from our local cafe and to go to the cinema when they open."
He told the Belfast Telegraph that the public understandably felt powerless in the face of large-scale redundancies, including 1,100 jobs lost between aeroplane seat maker Thompson Aero and aerospace giant Bombardier. But he added: "We can't go out and buy aeroplane seats or wings, but what we can do is make those little decisions to support those restaurants, shops and cafes that might close without our support.
"The money you hand over to that person on the other side of the till could make the difference to whether or not that person still has that job in the future."
He added putting up with queues in order to support businesses was the right thing to do.
"Maybe you look at the coffee shop or ice-cream shop and think you can't be bothered queuing," he said.
"But that decision could be a difference between that coffee shop staying open or not. It sounds dramatic, but it's true."