CSO Quarterly National Accounts Q1 2010

The CSO released the latest Quarterly National Accounts covering the first quarter of 2010. While seasonally adjusted GDP is up by 2.7% on the previous quarter, GNP is down by 0.5% (net factor outflows were up 11%on the previous quarter) . Compared to the same quarter in 2009 GDP was down by 0.7% and GNP was 4.2% lower. Exports are up compared both to the previous quarter and the same quarter a year ago. Building and construction has continued to contract significantly (-16.3%) while other industry has done very well (+11.6% for Industry including Building and Construction).

By Edgar Morgenroth

Professor of Economics at Dublin City University Business School

43 replies on “CSO Quarterly National Accounts Q1 2010”

The last stat, +11.6% – should that be “Industry *excluding* Building & Construction”?

One other thing worth pointing out is the slight fall, but ongoing upward trend, in services exports, now 46% of total exports, probably the highest of any economy of reasonable scale.


@Roanan L – have a look at tables 1 or 4. The third column is “Industry”, and the 4th colum is “of which Building and Construction”. You can get the breakdown in CSO DatabaseDirect. Manufacturing and Utilities grew by 15.5%.

The default reaction is of course to spin the GDP figure and of course without the foreign-owned sector, we wouldn’t have much of an economy.

However, it should be recognised that employment in multinational is back to 1998 levels while the total workforce has grown by 400,000.

More than 50% of Ireland’s merchandise exports are from the pharmaceutical and medical devices sectors – – about 20 companies are responsible for these exports.

In the five years to 2009, exports increased by 26% in the sector but the payroll remained almost static at 40,000.

The trend in employment is not good and while policymakers will always boost the R&D element in a project win, most of the jobs announced this year have been in call centers.

Apologies, was somewhat astounded by the 11% q/q growth particularly if it included Construction, which it did!

I’ve gone and done the maths and, by increasing from E9.3bn to E10.9bn, the “Industry *excluding* construction” sector grew by a staggering 17% quarter on quarter.

Michael Burke,
Are you saying that it is correct to adjust growth figures (in order to measure real growth) for inflation but not for deflation? That doesn’t seem to make sense to me. Your blog piece argues to look at the nominal figures and to disregard the ‘real’ figures.

Say the economy produced €160b of goods and services last year. Then this year it also produced €160b of goods but with 2% price deflation. Surely the key point here is that the economy is now producing more goods and services (though amounting to the same summed income). That is to say – there is now more economic activity this year than last. The point where we go from declining economic activity to increasing activity, surely that is the crucial point at which a recession bottoms out or turns a corner.

@Ronan L – My numbers are chain linked referenced to 2008 and seasonally adjusted from Database Direct. Yes, still very impressive, but of course there is also the increase in net factor outflows.

@ Ronan Lyons

“The “Industry *excluding* construction” sector grew by a staggering 17% quarter on quarter.”

So industry is booming but no jobs?

We also learnt today that:

“The seasonally adjusted Live Register total increased from 439,100 in May to 444,900 in June, an increase of 5,800. See table 2a and graph opposite. In the year to June 2010 there was an unadjusted increase in the Live Register of 37,420 (+9.0%). This compares with an increase of 43,788 (+11.1%) in the year to May 2010. ”



There’s no dispute that there were more goods and services in the economy in Q1, or at least passing through. The blog can be summed up as;

This is an net export-only recovery (even that helped along by a further declinine imports) which, because of structure and policy will not produce any jobs or increase in taxes

Worse, because of significant deflation the debt of all income earners will rise in real terms.

This includes the government, as well as businesses and households and is a point worth stressng, I think, against an unnecessary and counter-productive ‘competitive deflation’. The debt-servicing and repayment burden will only rise as, unfortunately, these can’t be met in 2007 €s, but must be met in contemporary ones.

@George Orwell
In every recession, jobs lag GDP so I don’t think anyone was expecting there to be 17% more jobs to match industrial output. I also don’t know anyone, however, who was expecting the industrial sector to expand by one sixth in the space of three months, which it did. This will help tax revenues more than jobs, but is still very much welcome, not least for the change of mood it might bring.

I do think, though, that Ireland’s growth over the coming five years or so will be largely jobless. Not a pleasant prospect.

Last thing: It’s worth pointing out that in the three quarters of the Irish labour market that is not construction, industry, agriculture and retail, there have been almost no jobs lost over the past three years. Our unemployment crisis is a very sector-specific one.

So…. unemployment up, consumer spending ‘still falling’, employment in multinationals back to 1998 levels, deflation, GNP down and bank lending ‘still falling’.

Thank goodness we are in ‘recovery’. Imagine what it would be like otherwise 😉

I understood from messers Cowen and Lenihan that the recovery starts on July 1st.

Anyone like to share a bottle of Bolly at midnight?

So let’s see:

That’s 450,000 officially unemployed (no figures for underemployment), at least 100,000 emigrated. The domestic economy and investment in it is collapsing. Deflation is increasing the personal and national effective debt burden. Transnationals are availing of low corporation tax to package products for sale in EU here and exports and GDP are thus increasing.

And still this is reported throughout the media as the ‘end of the recession’.

Nil desperandum, however. The great unlanceable brain thinks that unemployment is ‘peaking’. Based on his record, assume the opposite.

Is Dan O’Brien in the IT the Economist Dan O’Brien? Why would he have an interest in tarting up the picture and claiming the economy probably has reached bottom ?

@ Brian Lucey

Dan Boyle has got Cowenitis: “Unemployment is a problem elsewhere as well. There are signs that that is peaking and that numbers will soon decrease.”

Irish and Asian manufacturing slowed last month; US recovery is fragile as is the Eurozone’s.

Dan Boyle and the rest of the politicians have SFA to propose other than keep their fingers crossed for an international recovery.

How long will it take to create 150,000 net jobs?

This is a sample of the blather from Batt O’Keefe on 26 new jobs announced this week: “FCStone’s initial investment in Ireland is a win without parallel in our rapidly growing financial services sector.

The decision by a company of FCStone’s calibre to establish its European hub here shows Ireland can beat competitors for high-quality investments and generate good jobs for our highly educated workers.”

Why bother producing a credible strategy for developing markets on our doorstep in Europe, when problems can be wished away with spin?

World Trade: European Union has largest share of global trade at 25%; Seismic shifts in trade relations over past 20 years

We are now technically out of recession but I did not refer to this in the title of the post. Yes, the economy has turned a corner but what we realy need is growth in GNP. As Ronanan L points out, employment growth will lag output growth. The reason for this is that there is lots of spare capacity (slack) in an economy coming out of recession, which first needs to be taken up before jobs are created. Indeed, as firms start to invest again (no evidence of that in the data as investment is down) they are likely to invest in more efficient technologies that reduce the number of jobs for a given level of output. All this implies that for a full recovery an economy needs to turn a lot of corners. We have turned the first, one can expect GNP growth in Q2, investment will follow that, but employment growth is still some time away.

Isn’t it a racing certainty that any recovery will be a jobless recovery???

In those circumstances, isn’t it socially necessary to look at radical solutions to dealing with the amount of people out of work? I am talking about community work schemes and voluntary work schemes here. I am talking about non-secure low-paid (or unpaid) state employment. I can see why the Civil Service would feel threatened by this but there is abgger threat out there.

I am aware that many subsidies to businesses to employ more people are not efficient. However, we need to ascertain what is efficient and implement it.

Further down the line, we need to decide what can be implemented within the private sector. Is it justifiable to have one person earning €80K working a 12 hours day when two equally qualified people earning €40K could do the job better? I don’t have a solution to this problem but I think we need to think about it.

@ zhou_enlai

A year into the recovery in the US, its is expected tomorrow that the government will announce that jobs were lost in June.

It will be years before the 8m lost jobs are offset and it’s expected that many of the male blue collar jobs lost, are permanent.

The key factor in Ireland is that there were hardly any net job additions in the international tradable goods and services sector in the decade before the crash when the workforce expanded by over 400,000.

In 2006, the crazy year of the bubble peak, there were 83,000 net new jobs created but only 6,000 in the tradable sector.

So a recovery after a very severe recession, is in itself a challenge but added to that, it’s unclear where the engine of growth will come from.

Emigration will have to be part of the solution as there are no quick fixes — it’s not that we’re short of various supports/incentives.

I do believe that a start would be to openly recognise the challenge rather than continuing with spin and facile proposals such as putting mandarin on the school curriculum.

The ‘smart economy’ is the main crutch but it’s easy to set jobs targets and not know where the markets will be.

@seafoid – “Why would he have an interest in tarting up the picture and claiming the economy probably has reached bottom ?”

Yes it is the same man but I don’t know the answer to your question. I must admit, when I read the article, that I didn’t bother to look at who had written it and I gave up halfway in because I thought that it had been written by some FF spin-merchant who was trying to cover all the angles/eventualities. I suppose you could claim that was ‘balanced’ reporting. Next thing you know, newspapers will start reporting facts! Where will we all be then? Hi caramba!

Personally, I am still in recession and haven’t turned any corners yet. I nearly went into a coffee shop this morning to buy an Americano but then I couldn’t bring myself to pay 3.50 for the privilege and went home to make myself a cup of instant. How times have changed. The GJP (Gross Joseph Product) has declined faster than the Irish construction sector!

I disagree with the idea that we must use nominal, instead of real, figures to assess the extent of the recovery.

If there is deflation, then that means Irish people are ceterus paribus better off with the same amount of income, because their wages buy them more goods and services.

For example, if GDP were 100 and everything costs 1, then we have 100 widgets. If GDP remains at 100 and prices fall to 0.50, we can buy 200 widgets, so it is correct to adjust nominal GDP to 200 in this case.

If you do not control for falling prices, as Michael Burke suggests above, you are missing out on this effect.

I am a sceptic of the “green shoots” brigade, but failing to take account of goods and services getting cheaper is not the right way to remain realistic about the state of the Irish economy.

“If there is deflation, then that means Irish people are ceterus paribus better off with the same amount of income, because their wages buy them more goods and services.”

Did you mean to say
“…Irish people with no debt who have suffered litttle or no decrease in income are ceterus paribus better off…”?

You are right of course : deflation makes our debts harder to service. As you know, in general, inflation is more money chasing the same or fewer goods, and deflation is less money chasing the same or more goods. So yes, in the aggregate, there is less income. (this ignores ‘imported inflation/deflation’ but in our case it seems the bulk of the imbalance now is home grown).

That is where I agree with Michael Burke : deflation will increase the cost of servicing our debt. (though of course, in the view that currently lies outside the consensus, to borrow more to drive a stimulus, would also increase the cost of debt!).

I suppose it is no surprise that those who disagree with government policy (or government ideology in general) will seek to accentuate the negative part of any Irish economic news.

The truth is that we are seeing encouraging signs of a recovery and, though there are risks, there is at least good hope that we can begin to rebuild from here. But no-one can expect – no matter what policy the government pursues – to wake up some morning and hear that exports are thriving, GDP is +5%, and unemployment is falling rapidly. Everyone knows that the kind of economic shock we have suffered on the back of a bubble is going to take a long time to recover from. And we know too that jobs will be the last part of the picture to fall into place. (Indeed we might as well prepare ourselves for the possibility that unemployment will be at or very close to double figures for a long long time, possibly a decade.)

But I think it is a little peevish to not at least welcome the fact that we are seeing positive signs. Whether I agree or disagree with the government, I am much happier to hear our GDP is edging back up instead of hearing yet another report that it has fallen further.

@ Tomaltach

‘we might as well prepare ourselves for the possibility that unemployment will be at or very close to double figures for a long long time’

That’s an optimistic scenario, in which there will not be a superimposed crisis in Irish state finances or a global double dip. If those shoes drop, we could be heading deep into the double figures.

@George Orwell – Insolvencies do not happen over night, rather they are the result of prolonged problems i.e. insovencies now are evidence of problems some time ago rather than evidence of problems to come. Of course insolvencies now might imply less employment. All this is not inconsistent with a recovery – as I pointed out, a recovery goes through phases and it will take some time before a recovery manifests itself in terms of employment and incomes.

@Edgar Morgenroth – “insovencies now are evidence of problems some time ago rather than evidence of problems to come”

I’m not trying to be pedantic but… it’s problems some time ago – yes – but also problems that are still there now/today and haven’t disappeared. For example, SME’s that had some money in the bank when the slide started and have used it to stay afloat until the point ‘today’ (first half of 2010), where they have now run out of money and the situation has not improved – so they really just can’t go on any longer now that all their money’s gone and the banks aren’t letting ‘credit flow into the economy’.

I think this rise may well be an indication of problems still to come – some SME’s started off with more money than others and will keep going a little longer. Lots more insolvencies to come I would imagine. More job losses.

Anyone got any figures for the number of (non-export) new businesses being set up over recent months and how many of them are still in business? It would be an interesting comparison to get a more complete picture of SME activity, not just the insolvencies. I’ve seen three (retail) start in my local area this year and all have gone out of business in a very short time < 6 months (I wonder how many of them appear in those figures for first half of 2010?).

Looking at the (lack of) acitivity in more established business in my local high street, I’m not sure how some others are still hanging on in there but have to wonder if they are simply living off the owner’s savings.

Anyway, I need to decide if I’m writing or watching the football this afternoon. H’mmmmm… tough one that. Come on you oranje-booms.

@Joseph – yes, there may well be more bad news regarding insolvencies, and I certainly don’t want to trivialise this problem or suggest that it is not real or that nothing can be done. The point I was trying to make is that insolvencies are not a leading indicator of the state of the economy. With regard to business start-ups you need to be careful. Loss of employment often results in a rise in start-ups as those that were made redundant try to work on their own account. As you say the survival rates are what realy matters here. It is also worth pointing out that whatever activity takes place in the black economy, which presumably has grown, is not covered by official statistics.

When I see the gap between GDP and GNP widening by more than 3 percentage points of GDP in a quarter and almost 5 points in a year, it prompts 2 questions: 1) can the data be relied upon, 2) if so, what are the major underlying changes causing the divergence in the figures.

On the basis of Quarterly National Accounts Table 4 (constant costs, seasonally adjusted), industrial output in Q1 was up on 2009 Q4 by €1,289m, 11.6%, the largest changes for any quarter 2005-10 and this accounts for more than the entire increase in GDP. Extracting building and construction, other industrial output is shown up €1,593m, 17.1%, more than double any previous quarterly increase, but not in any way translating into employment.

Turning to the GDP/GNP gap, net factor income to the rest of the world, the increase quarter on quarter is shown as €784m, an unusual (but not unique) increase. We are told in the QNA that the profits of foreign owned enterprises increased by €2,007m between Q1 2009 and Q1 2010, although I cannot find that in the Balance of Payments statistics. In the BOP figures, it is the outward investment income for 2009 Q4 which looks unusually low. Also Irish income from abroad is shown down 35% 2009 v 2008, but fairly stable from 2009 Q3.

A recent report in the Examiner said Shannon-based GECAS paid dividends to its parent in 2009 and 2008 which were a multiple of its profits. http://www.irishexaminer.com/sport/shannon-leasing-firm-pays-dividend-of-1m-per-irish-employee-to-us-parent-123461.html Assuming, the report is correct, I wonder was there a specifically a GE driving it or is there a general trend to move cash out of Irish companies? Could CSO be capturing non-profit transfers as factor income?

@Antoin Daltún

in an attempted answer to your second question, it seems that despite the improving economic indicators released from the CSO and others, there remains a huge level of uncertainty in the Irish economy. Consumer spending and investment remain weak, pointing to the likelihood that people in Ireland are very reluctant to part with their money in the face of continually increasing unemployment and job uncertainty.

Compare this to the situation in the US and large Asian countries, where many of the Irish-based MNCs that cause the GDP/ GNP differential have most of their business . Although not fully out of danger, unemployment is beginning to lower and consumer confidence is slowly increasing.

This may, in part, explain the growing gap between GDP and GNP. While the MNCs that repatriate their profits are beginning to see the benefits of the global recovery (at least in the Asian and US economies), the Irish economy is lagging behind, relected in the reduction in GNP.

@Antoin Daltun – most of this was dealt with already. The growth there has been has been entirely export led. As I said above I would get a bit more excited when GNP is growing again. Net factor outflows are quite volotile (even when seasonally adjusted) and has been increasing over time (in real terms) – the increase in Q1 does not look terribly out of line.

Greetings, one and all. I returned at lunchtime today after spending the past 4 months on secondment (as part of my day job) in California. So, alas, I missed the celebrations that I assume took place following the announcement of the end of the recession in Ireland. It is a sobering thought that at my age (61), based on Ireland’s economic performance over the past half-century, during which recessions occured only every quarter-century, I may well not live to see the next one.

Regarding the actual figures. I predicted on this site in September last that GDP would increase in Ireland by 2.8 per cent in 2010. I must try and find the link to it, but I’m pretty sure it was sometime in September last. At the time, virtually all forecasters were predicting negative growth in GDP in Ireland in 2010, many by as much as 3 per cent. I see no reason to change my forecast now. The only mainstream forecasters to publish forecasts since the GDP figures were published are Goodbody’s. They have revised their forecast to one of an increase in GDP of 1.5 per cent in 2010. Back in September, when I made my 2.8 per cent increase in GDP forecast for 2010, Goodbody’s were among those forecasting a fall in GDP in 2010 of around 3 per cent. So, they are moving in my direction. I was just there 9 months ahead of them.

There is one important statistical point about the actual GDP figures for Q1 that I believe has been overlooked. Namely, the concentration of car sales in Ireland in the first quarter of the year, combined with the fact that the fall in car sales has been much greater than that for consumer spending as a whole, appears to have screwed up the CSO seasonal adjustment for private consumption in the GDP figures. I am not the only one to be of this opinion. Davy stockbrokers made the same point in one of their morning bulletins a few months ago.

We can see this clearly if we look at the CSO figures for both retail sales and for private consumption (from the GDP component figures) each quarter since 2008 Q3 (all figures seasonally-adjusted):

retail sales (volume figures – seasonally-adjusted):

2008 Q3 106.3
2008 Q4 103.9 – q-o-q change: – 2.3%
2009 Q1 88.4 – q-o-q change: -14.9%
2009 Q2 92.3 – q-o-q change: +4.4%
2009 Q3 94.4 – q-o-q change: +2.3%
2009 Q4 95.2 – q-o-q change: +0.8%
2010 Q1 89.4 – q-o-q change: -6.1%
2010 Q2 95.9 – q-o-q change: +7.3%

note: 2010 Q2 figure is April only

private consumption (volume figures – seasonally-adjusted):

2008 Q3 23,711
2008 Q4 23,282 – q-o-q change: – 1.8%
2009 Q1 22,044 – q-o-q change: -5.3%
2009 Q2 22,100 – q-o-q change: +0.3%
2009 Q3 22,046 – q-o-q change: -0.2%
2009 Q4 21,941 – q-o-q change: -0.7%
2010 Q1 21,903 – q-o-q change: -0.2%

So, if we look at the retail sales figures, superficially it would appear that retail sales volume fell by 14.9% in the first quarter of 2009, then rose each succeeding quarter in 2009, fell by 6.1% in the first quarter of 2010, but so far have risen by a whopping 7.3% in the second quarter of 2010. The point I’m making is that this doesn’t reflect reality. No one believes that retail sales volume was increasing in all quarters after the first quarter in 2009. Its a statistical distortion to the seasonal-adjustment (for which the CSO is in no way to blame) caused by the concentration of car sales in Ireland in the first quarter of the year, combined with the fact that the fall in car sales has been much greater than that for consumer spending as a whole. The distortion has a negative effect on both the retail sales figures and private consumption (GDP) figures in the first quarter of the year, but a positive effect on them in the second, third and fourth quarters, the distortion declining as the year progresses (mirroring the fact that car sales decline as the year progresses). The distortion will continue until car sales come back to normal levels, which they increasingly show signs of doing.

The upshot of all this is that private consumption almost certainly increased in Q1, probably by 1% to 2%, rather than the 0.2% fall the CSO reported, and the increase in GDP was probably 0.5% to 1% greater than the 2.7% reported by the CSO. The distortion will work in the opposite direction in Q2, and to a lesser extent in Q3 and Q4. In other words, the figure the CSO will report for the increase in retail sales and private consumption (GDP) for Q2, Q3 and Q4 will be greater than what actually occurs.

So, at this stage, while I wouldn’t hazard a guess for GDP growth in Q2 (it depends to a large extent on net exports), I will state categorically that the next set of GDP figures for Q2 will show a very hefty increase in the volume of private consumption (seasonally-adjusted), part of which will be a real increase, but part of which will be the statistical distortion I have referred to. Indeed, we allready know this from the April retail sales figures. Even if there was no further increase in retail sales volume in May and June (unlikely), there would still be a 7.3% increase in retail sales volume in Q2 over Q1, and retail sales account for about half of private consumption in the GDP figures.

Do you remember all those pronouncements by Lenihan et al that we do not want to be like Iceland……thought it might be interesting to note that Iceland’s unemployment rate reached a high of 9.3% in Feb 2010 and was at 8.3% as of May. What is ours….13% and rising!

Makes you wonder why we didn’t want to be like Iceland!!

@De Roiste – Krugman has been making similar pronouncements. If we still had the punt we almost certainly would have followed the Icelandic strategy but we don’t – no use comparing apples with oranges.

I recently saw a programme which dealt with the consequences for ordinary Icelanders of the crisis (German TV). We might feel hard done by negative eqiuity, but the Icelandic banks sold Euro mortgages to their customers, so in addition to a drop in value mortgage holders also have taken a massive hit due to the devaluation i.e. there are many who did not loose their job who are in trouble on their mortgage as repayments have gone up massively. I have not followed the developments on repayments to the UK and the Netherlands but I suspect the worst is not over for Iceland yet.

@JohnThe Optimist

Welcome back.

Given that the only merit of GDP is as a denominator when reporting our success to Brussels, perhaps you might like to give us the benefit of your wisdom on GNP.

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