Employment remains steady but productivity is the real goal

Northern Ireland lost 3-1 at Winsdor Park as the Germans produced the goals to dismiss  their World Cup bid
Northern Ireland lost 3-1 at Winsdor Park as the Germans produced the goals to dismiss their World Cup bid

Northern Ireland needs to focus on how its players perform more than how many there may be on the pitch a leading econommist has claimed.

Speaking as the latest jobs figures showed the province continues to enjoy lower unemployment levels than the rest of the UK, the Irish Republic and the EU, Ulster Bank Chief Economist for Northern Ireland Richard Ramsey used the footballign analogy in the context of productivity.

In that regard, the province continues to trail the rest of the country as it has for some years.

“It is important not to get carried away with the number of jobs,” he said.

“Job quality matters more than quantity. Northern Ireland’s jobs machine may be working well but the productivity machine continues to misfire.

“The football World Cup will soon be upon us. As in football, it is not the numbers of players you put on a pitch. Instead, it is how each player performs a specific role and how they function as a team.”

Using Germany as an example of performance on and of the pitch he said statistics suggested a Northern Ireland worker would have to work until 5pm on Saturdayto achieve what the average worker in rest of the UK would have achieved by 5pm on the Friday.

“Meanwhile the German worker will have gone home lunchtime Thursday,” he said.

Published on Tuesday by the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) the latest data shows that despite the rise, the level remains significantly below rates one year ago and below the UK unemployment rate for the third consecutive quarter having been consistently being above it since the end of 2013.

FSB NI Policy Chair, Tina McKenzie said the figures presented a complex picture.

“While unemployment has increased slightly over the quarter, it is still low by historical standards, however more troubling is that economic inactivity, people of working age not in work or seeking employment, is unchanged and shows no sign of decreasing.

“There is a huge chasm between the rate of economic inactivity in Northern Ireland at 28% compared to the overall UK rate at 21%.

“If this is not addressed it will cause significant issues for businesses who require access to skills and labour, and will also have wider social implications.

“More encouraging news was found in the Quarterly Employment Survey for Q1 2018, which demonstrated that private sector jobs increased over the quarter to their highest level, which represents progress as we look to rebalance the economy.

“SMEs in Northern Ireland employ more people than all larger businesses and the entire public sector combined, so have a key role to play as we look to further develop the local private sector.”