Quarterly National Household Survey, 2011:Q1

The QNHS release is here.   Some analysis of the figures from the Irish Times here.  Overall, some modest good news.   I would say Ronnie O’Toole has it about right,

“This does not indicate that unemployment is on a downward path, and only reverses the surprise rise in the fourth quarter,” said National Irish Bank’s chief economist Dr Ronnie O’Toole.

“However, it does indicate that the labour market is very close to stabilising, with half of all industry categories showing year-on-year increases in employment. These increases, however, were not large enough to offset the continued loss of jobs in hospitality and construction.”

27 replies on “Quarterly National Household Survey, 2011:Q1”

Another important feature of today’s release, as pointed out by Eoin Bond, is the implied migration figures.

The number of Irish nationals of working age continues to grow, and has now hit 3,150,000, an increase of 100,000 since 2008. This is consistent with zero net-migration of Irish nationals, with the growth in the numbers of working age coming from favourable demographics.

In contrast, the number of non-Irish working in the economy continues to fall sharply, and is now down to 360,000 from a peak of just under half a million. Non-Irish workers have seen sharp declines in employment in all industries, with employment in construction having fallen an astonishing 82%.

Employment in services industries (in aggregate) of Irish nationals is broadly unchanged since the start of the downturn. Many Irish workers seem to be taking up employment formerly done by non-Irish workers.

The best that can be said about the quarter is that we are getting worse slower. Seasonally adjusted employment is down by almost 10,000. Employment in industry is down 2,900. Gobsmackingly, employment in public administration and defence is up 2,500 at a time when the public service is supposedly shedding staff.

The lower unemployment rate appears to be driven by emigration and another fall in labour force participation, so it is not particularly good news.


Thank you for this. It is quite a remarkable mode of adjustment for any economy. The implications are certainly worth some thought and discussion.

The stat I head for first is the number of Full-time employed. Unfortunately, this continued its decline in q1 dropping c.23k.

ASAIK the peak was around Jun-Aug 2006

Jun-Aug 2006 Full-time: 1,724.7k
Jan-Mar 2011 Full-time: 1,377.5k
Decrease: 347k

A 20% fall. It might be a little cheeky, but assuming a constant 300k Public Sector, you’re looking at close to 1 in 4 full-time private sector jobs gone.


A little more fussily:

Using the actual public sector numbers and assuming that all partime work is in the private sector, and calculated FTEs (2 part-time jobs = one fulltime) gives a decline of 18% in private sector employment over the timescale you indicate. A sobering figure.

Ronnie O’Toole’s analysis is, as usual, spot-on. All these joke celebrity economists should learn a thing or two from him about how to analyse statistical data. The most plausible interpretation of the figures is that unemployment has been flat since last summer and that the reported increase in Q4 2010 was a freak. That is, indeed, what the live register figures show. Normally, the QNHS figures follow quite closely the live register figures. However, for some reason (that I am unable to fathom),
there was a major divergence between the two in Q4 2010, and the QNHS
figures showed a big rise in the number of unemployed, while the live register stayed flat. This has now been reversed in Q1 2011, with the QNHS figures showing a big fall in the number of unemployed, while the live register still stays flat. So, the two measures are back in sync, with both now showing the number of unemployed broadly flat since last summer.

Regarding migration, these figures do not support ESRI’s claims that net emigration has been running at 60,000 to 70,000 over recent years, figures which have received worldwide publicity. They indicate much lower figures of around 30,000 for the past 2 years, on top of around 8,000 in the year before, and, as Ronnie O’Toole says, heavily concentrated among foreign nationals. Not only that, but they also indicate falling net emigration. We can deduce this from the figures for the population aged 15 plus that are contained in the QNHS.

annual change in population aged 15 plus:

2008 Q1: +76.8 thousand
2008 Q2: +52.4 thousand
2008 Q3: +42.1 thousand
2008 Q4: +21.6 thousand

2009 Q1: +11.8 thousand
2009 Q2: +8.9 thousand
2009 Q3: -3.5 thousand
2009 Q4: -12.9 thousand

2010 Q1: -15.5 thousand
2010 Q2: -11.4 thousand
2010 Q3: -13.5 thousand
2010 Q4: -8.8 thousand

2011 Q1: -8.4 thousand

The annual change was highly positive pre-recession. Then it fell and went negative in 2009 Q3. The annual fall hit 15.5 thousand in Q1 2010, but this has now fallen to 8.4 in Q1 2011. This would seem to indicate that net emigration was a few thousand less in the year to Q1 2011 than in the year Q1 2010 (somewhere in the region of 30,000 when you allow for the natural increase in the population aged 15 plus).

One proviso. I am assuming that the CSO figures are correct. ESRI, who have forecast much higher net emigration figures, have claimed that the CSO have got their figures wrong. It is impossible for someone on the outside, like myself, to know if there is any substance in this. For the purposes of analysis here, I have no option but to take the CSO figures at face value and assume that they are correct. They always have been in the past. The CSO have an excellent record. But, if ESRI are correct and the CSO figures are wrong, then, obviously, the analysis I gave above will be a load of old hooey and should be disregarded.

There is some support for the CSO figures from the figures published by heir UK equivalent, the ONS (Office of National Statistics). They publish figures quarterly for the population of foreign birth living in the different
countries of the UK. These are the figures they give for the number of Irish-born (i.e. Republic of Ireland-born) persons living in England (separate ONS figures for Scotland and Wales show a similar pattern).

number of Irish-born (ROI-born) persons in England:

2004: 380,000
2005: 373,000
2006: 368,000

2007: Q1 361,000
2007: Q2 351,000
2007: Q3 356,000
2007: Q4 356,000

2008: Q1 349,000
2008: Q2 350,000
2008: Q3 360,000
2008: Q4 347,000

2009: Q1 344,000
2009: Q2 348,000
2009: Q3 340,000
2009: Q4 338,000

2010: Q1 343,000
2010: Q2 343,000
2010: Q3 340,000

If there has been a big outflow of Irish persons to England in recent years, as the media would have us believe, then why do ONS figures show the number of Irish-born persons in England falling, at the same time as the Ireland CSO figures show the number of Irish-born persons in Ireland rising. Obviously, like everyone, Irish-born persons in England die, which explains part of the fall there, but not the whole of it, and the figures
seem to indicate that the numbers are not being up by new arrivals.

With regard to emigration in general, we have had little but sensationalism in the Irish media and no attempt to establish accuracy. It is much easier, and more lucrative, for the media to have sensationalist headlines than to analyse the nitty-gritty of the figures. Earlier this week, the Irish Times had a report (link below) that the number of Irish nationals applying for national insurance numbers in the UK had risen to 13,920 in 2010, up from 9,510 in 2006. Apart from the fact that the increase of a mere 4,410 since 2006, when Ireland had net immigration of around 60,000, doesn’t seem to be very large when compared with the size of the overall migration turnaround being claimed by some, it was matched almost exactly by the 13,431 PPSNs issued in Ireland in 2010 to UK nationals, which, naturally,
the Irish Times failed to mention. Subject, as I said above, to the CSO figures being correct, I’m afraid that the latest Irish diaspora is largely a myth.



It would be intersting to try to reconcile the PS employment numbers in the QNHS with the Croke Park update on employment reduction in the PS.

53,000 jobs lost in the year, 19,000 of them in the latest quarter alone. 67,000 full-time jobs lost, 23,000 of them in the latest quarter.

An employment rate (59.4%) which is on a par with Lithuania and Romania.

An interesting definition of what constitutes ‘good news’.

The preliminary results of the 2011 Census will be released on June 30. These will shed light on migration trends since 2006.

@Ahura Mazda

Jun-Aug 2006 Full-time: 1,724.7k
Jan-Mar 2011 Full-time: 1,377.5k
Decrease: 347k


Just a question. Might some of that decrease be explained by the fact there were far more one off projects around back then – e.g. an office block being built – seemingly providing ‘full time’ employment but only for the finite duration of the project? If that is the case then perhaps most of them were non-Irish who have since left (though I guess a number of Irish people have left too – the exact number seems questionable) or those Irish and non-Irish who have joined the dole queue in that time period?

It seems a very large drop and I’m just wondering whether the raw data is all that it appears to be. Ronnie O’Toole’s 18% figure though is, as he says, sobering to say the least. That’s a lot of spending into the economy and tax revenue gone AWOL.

It seems that the seasonal adjustment (which will have been based on history which shows decreases in unemployment in Q4 and rises in Q1) have let the CSO down, and mightn’t be as good a basis for adjustment as previously.

The absolute number of unemployed is now 295,700 (co-incidentally the same as the seasonally adjusted number) and it has been in the 293-299 range for the past four quarters . I wonder if the CSO needs examine its seasonality adjustment metrics.

In a recession I think workforce participation is more important, this is as people will do such things as say re-enter education upon redundancy. Is it possible to get a headline ‘not working’ rate and see trends ? i.e. (the unemployed)+(those eligible to participate,but not doing so)

After all, if memory serves, it was increased workforce participation (chiefly both spouses working), which bore the most responsibility for the genuine part of the ‘Celtic Tiger’.

On closer examination of the release, it turns out that “over 5,000” were employed temporarily on the Census of Population. Net of that, employment in the public sector fell by 3,700 in the quarter.

Of course this means that positive spin on the QNHS release is exaggerated. Employment net of the Census effect fell by about 15,000. The underlying improvement in the unemployment rate and the employment condition of Irish citizens was less than the headline improvements being reported.

That should be “seasonally adjusted employment” that fell by about 15,000.

There are a fair number of part timers in the public service, actually. There are people on job shares, people on 4 day weeks, and young teachers, to name a few. I couldn’t give figures, but it’s certainly not the case that everyone in the public service, or even every permanent employee in the public service, is working full time.


Fair play to you, you’ve been consistent on this issue, and now, it seems, absolutely right.

I thought a very interesting point in the figures was that for the first time in the history of the state there are more women than men in employment.


Thank you, igsy.

But, all I’m doing basically is cutting and pasting CSO figures and pointing out that they differ greatly from ESRI forecasts, and the even more gloomy forecasts of some others. Nothing particularily clever about that on my part. And, as I said above, my analysis is only as good as the CSO figures are accurate. If the CSO figures are accurate, then my analysis is correct. But if, as ESRI claim, the CSO figures are possibly wrong, then my analysis is rubbish. As an outsider, I have no information on whether or not there is any substance to the ESRI claim, all I know is that for the past few census, the CSO pre-census estimates have been remarkably accurate, and even the late Garret Fitzgerald commented on that a few times in the IT. So, I hope that they are equally accurate this time, but I have absolutely no more information than anyone else as to whether or not that is the case.

@ PR Guy,

I’m guessing, but yes it seems reasonable that many full-timers lost work in project dependent companies. Though I’m not sure if it makes much of a difference – a job is lost one way or another. Non-Irish seem to have fared worse than the natives. Again this is of limited benefit. You may argue that non-Irish have a higher probability of leaving and therefore reduces social welfare costs; but it also reduces the potential size of the economy.

I keep an eye on changes in full-time because it’s my ‘finger-in-the-air’ on income tax potential and consumer spending/domestic economy. It’s crude but I assume that amount of tax or potential for increased consumption from part-time workers is limited.

There were quite a few Eastern Europeans who came and went in Ireland, these have presumably stopped coming. This group remitted a lot of their earnings, so this lost employment has a smaller multiplier than typical employment.


Valid point.

A subscript to this is that the experience of all foreign workers has been very similar. This is a surprise as (typically) UK nationals have on average been here much longer than Eastern workers, and seemed (in the past) to have similar labour market experiences to the Irish. For some reason they are leaving in the same numbers as their Eastern European counterparts this time round.


I suspect the major reason for the gender gap in employment is that public sector employment levels have held up a lot better than such sectors as construction.

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