Share of NI public sector employees falls below 25% for the first time

According to the latest data from Asda’s Income Tracker, the share of NI employees working in the public sector has fallen below 25% for the first time since comparable statistics exist.

With the statistics suggesting an increasingly dynamic private-sector led economy in Northern Ireland, the unemployment rate of 3.1% remains well below the national average – whilst wages have seen an increase of 3.5% on the year.

Northern Ireland is also one of only two UK regions to have seen an acceleration in family spending power growth from Q1 2019 to the second quarter of this year. In addition, NI, Scotland and the South East witnessed the fastest increase in family spending power in the same time period in percentage terms.

However, whilst the run of robust Income Tracker growth continues for NI with an annual increase in family spending power of 8.4% – equivalent to an additional £8.80 per week of discretionary income – the £113 figure keeps Northern Ireland at the bottom of the league table, and £100 below the national figure of £213 per week.

Meanwhile, gross income growth rate for the region in Q2 2019 remained at 3.6% from Q1 2019 – which is 0.1 percentage points higher than the UK average of 3.5% this quarter.

The rise of the UK-average for family spending power per week to £214 in June was supported by regular pay growth of 3.6% year-on-year in the 3 months to May nationally – the highest rate since the recession.

Over the past year, UK income growth has accelerated significantly as employers bump up their wages to attract and retain talent. This, alongside UK unemployment remaining at 3.8% – the lowest rate since 1974 – is keeping the labour market strong.

Researchers believe there are various factors affecting spending power at play.

Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, remained unchanged for June, sitting at 2.0%.

The cost of clothing and footwear fell by 0.4% year-on-year, marking the 10th consecutive month of negative growth. Still, comparing the monthly price change to that of the previous year, prices fell by a smaller amount, causing upwards pressure on the price index.

This was offset by the slowing rate of inflation for transport, housing & utilities, and recreation & culture.

Fuel price inflation fell to 0.7%, the lowest rate since February this year, providing welcome relief for family budgets.

Kay Neufeld, Managing Economist, CEBR, said:“The latest Asda Income Tracker shows Northern Ireland is continuing to catch-up with the rest of the UK in terms of family spending power, with positive signs of this upward turn reflected in the most recent figures. A decrease in the NI public sector workforce to the lowest level since records began is a trend which suggests an increasingly dynamic private sector led economy.

“From a UK-wide point of view, the Q2 2019 figures paint a healthy picture of family spending power. However, with Northern Ireland still recording the lowest discretionary income in the UK at £113 per week, there is still a significant gap between NI and the national figure of £213 for the second quarter of this year.”

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