Archive for the ‘Economic Performance’ Category

Too early to call the end of the eurozone recession…

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Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

…says the CEPR Business Cycle Dating Committee, here.

Changes to national accounting practices

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Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

There has been some comments in the media over the past week or so about changes to the way national accounts are compiled in the EU.

A good deal of this has focussed on changes relating to illegal/informal/underground economic activities.  It should be noted that there is no change to the treatment of these activities in ESA2010.  The definitions and conceptual approach to such activities remains exactly as it was in ESA95.  The major differences between ESA95 and ESA2010 are summarised here.

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Stability Programme Update

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Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

A DoF presentation with some of the key forecasts in the SPU is available here. There is also a press release.

The full text is here.

Government Finance Statistics

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Monday, April 14th, 2014

The CSO have published the end-2013 update of these series:

There isn’t much to surprise in the figures.  Gross debt at the end of 2013 was €203 billion (124 per cent of GDP).  Once offsetting assets of €42 billion in the same categories are accounted for net debt was €161 billion.  The assets were:

  • Cash: €23.8 billion
  • Bonds: €10.8 billion
  • Loans: €7.1 billion

Other assets not used in the net debt calculation are include shares and other equity of €29.8 billion and other financial assets (mainly accounts receivable) of €9.2 billion.

The market value of Ireland’s €203 billion of nominal debt instruments was €219 billion at the end of the year.  The estimated pension liabilities of the government are put at €98 billion, while contingent liabilities are “just” €73 billion.

The 2013 general government deficit is provisionally estimated to have been €11.8 billion (7.2 per cent of GDP) from €13.4 billion in 2012.

The ‘operating balance’ of the government sector went from a deficit of €12.5 billion in 2012 to one of €11.8 billion in 2013, an improvement of just €0.7 billion.  The improvement in the overall deficit was greater because of changes in the capital budget.

Gross fixed capital formation was further reduced from €3.1 billion in 2012 to €2.7 billion in 2013.  With consumption of fixed capital at €2.3 billion the increase in the public capital stock was just €0.4 billion.  The main change in the capital account was a €0.7 billion gain in the ‘net acquisition of unproduced assets’ which likely relates to things such as mobile phone and lottery licenses.

Revenue from taxes and social contributions rose from €49.1 billion to €51.6 billion, while investment income was up around €0.5 billion to €2.7 billion. Much of these increases were offset by an increase in interest expenditure of €1.5 billion to €7.4 billion.  Social transfers paid decreased from €29.0 billion to €28.6 billion, of which €24.0 billion were in cash.

Q4 2013 International Investment Position and External Debt

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Thursday, March 27th, 2014

The CSO have published the Q4 2013 update of the IIP data.

These are important data but, as with many macro aggregates on the Irish economy, establishing meaningful trends can be difficult.  In the data the totals look enormous but the IFSC sector has foreign assets of €2,390 billion and foreign liabilities of €2,394 billion for a net external liability of just €4 billion.  It is possible to generate some ridiculously large external debt figures for Ireland by including the liabilities of the IFSC but they are wholly matched by foreign assets.

The net international investment position of the non-IFSC sector improved significantly in the final quarter of 2013, moving from –€172 billion to –€150 billion.  This measure troughed in Q4 2011 at -€196 billion.  The bulk of the –€150 billion arises from the –€116 billion net IIP of the government sector.

The net IIP of the non-IFSC sector began to improve in 2012 though obviously the position of the government sector continued to deteriorate.  However, this  was more than offset by the improvement in the net IIP of the Central Bank which fell from –€101 billion at the end of 2011 to –€37 billion now (these are the liabilities to the ESCB including TARGET2 balances).  Most of this improvement occurred in 2012.

In the most recent quarter there was a €6 billion improvement in the net IIP of the non-financial corporate sector, from –€87 billion to –€81 billion.  However, on this the release notes the following:

With the relocation of a number of group headquarters to Ireland, foreign assets of Non-Financial Companies increased by €47.5bn and foreign liabilities increased by €41.4bn resulting in a decrease of €6.1bn in the net liability to €81.2bn

Thus, all of the quarterly improvement for the sector (and half of the total quarterly improvement for the non-IFSC sector) is as a result of company re-domiciling.  To the extent that these companies have retained earnings on their balance sheets this is also likely to have impacted GNP figures for the same quarter.

Ireland’s Gross External Debt was largely unchanged at €1,604 billion, with 70 per cent of this arising from the foreign debt-instrument liabilities of the IFSC sector.  The Net External Debt after subtracting foreign assets in debt instruments was –€696 billion (i.e. an asset position). 

Removing the impact of the IFSC, the Net External Debt of the non-IFSC sector at the end of 2013 was a liability position of €92 billion.  This was €146 billion at the end of 2012 and €182 billion at the end of 2011.  Again, the improvement in 2012 was due to improvements in the Central Bank position but this did not continue into 2013.  The 2013 improvement in Net External Debt can mainly be attributed a jump in debt instrument assets under the heading “debt liabilities to affiliated enterprises”. These debt instrument assets show an increase of €30 billion over the year, all of which happened in Q4.  Again this can be attributed to the re-domiciling of firms.

As a result of the impact of the IFSC sector looking at the overall totals for Ireland is largely meaningless.  There has been some improvement in the stripped-out results for the non-IFSC sector but, recently at least, much of that can be attributed to boardroom decisions.

Forfás: Survey of Economic Impact

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Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

The 2012 release of the Annual Business Survey of Economic Impact is available here.

The coverage is obviously not as broad as the various equivalent figures provided by the CSO.  The Forfás survey is limited to “client” companies with ten employees or more but a benefit of the survey is that the indicators surveyed are decomposed by company ownership.

 

Some Very Positive Labour Market Numbers

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Friday, February 28th, 2014

The results of the Quarter 4 2013 National Household Survey are available here.
The year-on-year increase in the numbers at work of 3.3% is all the more remarkable in view of the continuing decline in public sector employment.
The overall unemployment rate (seasonally adjusted) fell from 12.7% to 12.1%, and the long-term rate from 8.2% to 7.2%.

IGEES launches new website

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Thursday, February 13th, 2014

The Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service has launched its new website at http://igees.gov.ie/

Full-Year Exchequer Statement

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Friday, January 3rd, 2014

December 2013 Exchequer Statement

Related Documents

QHNS Q3 2013

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Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

The CSO have published the latest Quarterly National Household Survey: Press release and Main release.

Employment is up 58,000 in the year.  Full-time employment accounts 53,500 of that.  Concerns about the distribution of the numbers employed into each sector remain (particularly the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sector).  There was a 30,200 increase in the numbers self-employed and a 27,300 increase in the number of employees.

Unemployment using the QNHS is now at 282,900, a drop of 41,700 over the year.  Self-classified unemployment is at 326,700 down 45,000 in the last 12 months.

The unemployment rate was 13.0 percent in Q3 (seasonally adjusted 12.8 percent).  Using the Live Register the CSO project that the SA rate in October was 12.6 percent.

The labour force has increased by 16,000 in the same time with a 0.5pp annual increase in the participation rate to 60.7 percent.

The number unemployed for one year or longer fell 27,800 of which 25,800 were males.  The long-term unemployment rate is 7.6 percent (8.9 percent a year ago).

Youth unemployment (15-24) has fallen from 74,000 to 60,400 with the youth unemployment rate at 26.5 percent.  The youth unemployment ratio is 10.3 percent. 

There is lots more detail in the release.  The Earnings and Labour Costs Survey for Q3 has also been released.

Fiscal Assessment Report

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Friday, November 22nd, 2013

The latest report from the FAC is available here.

EC Autumn Forecast 2013

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Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

All the documents can be accessed from here.

The main figures for Ireland (“rebalancing on track”) are:

Among Euroarea countries six are expected to face a BoP current account deficit in 2014: Estonia, Greece, France, Cyprus, Latvia and Finland.  The largest deficit is expected to be in Estonia at 2.2% of GDP.  On the other side Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovenia will have a current account surplus of more than 6% of GDP.  The first three will have three-year averages greater than the 6% of GDP threshold set out in the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure.  In aggregate the euroarea is projected to have a current acount surplus of around 3% of GDP for the next two years.

The Spanish public deficit is forecast to increase to 6.5% of GDP in 2015 with France, Cyprus, Malta, Slovenia and Slovakia also projected to have deficits in 2015 over the 3% of GDP threshold for the Excessive Deficit Procedure.  In aggregate the Euroarea is expected to run a public deficit of around 2.5% of GDP for the next two years with public debt steady at around 95% of GDP.

Quarterly national accounts

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Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Ireland’s second quarter national accounts have just been released. Full details are here.

On a quarterly basis GDP was up 0.4% and GNP was down 0.4%. As Colm McCarthy is forever pointing out, our quarterly data are highly volatile and not too much should be read into a single set of figures. On an annual basis GDP was down by a little more than 1%, and GNP was essentially flat. Ireland is still bumping along the bottom. But, because of the mad way in which recessions are officially defined, the headlines this lunchtime are of Ireland “exiting recession”.

Good News on the Labour Market

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Thursday, August 29th, 2013

The CSO released the results of the Quarterly National Household Survey for Quarter 2 2013 this morning, together with their population estimates for April of this year and the components of population change over the previous twelve months.

The news is mostly positive, showing clear evidence of a recovering labour market.

The level of employment has risen, with full-time employment up for the first time since 2008. Private sector employment is growing fairly strongly, offsetting the decline in public sector numbers.

Although still very high, overall unemployment is down and long-term unemployment has fallen as a proportion of the total.

The population increased only marginally between April 2012 and April 2013. The slowdown in population growth was due to (i) the continued high level of net emigration, with an increase in the outflow of Irish nationals, and (ii) a sharp fall in natural increase, due to the drop of almost 5% in the number of births.

Ireland’s (and Britain’s, and Italy’s…) long recession

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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Jeff Frankel has a terrific piece here on the unsatisfactory way in which recessions and recoveries are called in Europe.

The current European definition of a recession (two successive quarters of declining GDP) is particularly unsuitable in Ireland, given its dodgy and volatile GDP statistics — looking at a broader range of indicators over a longer period of time would surely make more sense here.

There is an additional cost to the two-quarter rule of thumb in the Irish and Eurozone context: it implies that Ireland is periodically proclaimed to be out of recession. This then allows Eurozone politicians and central bankers to defend the status quo monetary and fiscal policies prolonging the economic crisis in Ireland and elsewhere. (And to express “surprise” when Ireland tips into recession “again”, despite its model pupil status.)

Update: the CEPR’s Euro area business cycle dating committee does not use the “two-quarter GDP decline” rule of thumb. Details of their methodology are available here.

Lessons from the 1950s?

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Saturday, June 15th, 2013

The institutional innovations over the deep crisis of the 1950s gave birth to the modern Irish economy. I analysed the process in this article  in the Irish Independent last week.  Brendan Keenan re edited it slightly to highlight his interpretation of what I was saying. One of the fascinating things about writing anything is how it takes on a life of its own in readers’ minds.   (“And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us”).  Edna Longley once destroyed the meaning of something I had written by aggressive editing; fortunately no such problems arise with Brendan.  I wrote a similar piece for historyhub.ie, a new site developed by a group of young historians.  Though I disagree with much of what Bryce Evans has to say on Lemass, I found his interpretation of what I had written illuminating: “it makes the case very convincingly for expertise offered as a basis for policy-making being more robustly based on both independence and breadth of opinion.”

Institutional Sector Accounts: Non-Financial

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Monday, April 15th, 2013

The CSO have published the Q4 2012 and 2012 (preliminary) non-financial ISAs.  The preliminary annual data are not included in the release (they can be roughly derived from the online quarterly dataset) but the commentary indicates that there were annual rises in the household sector for all of income, consumption and savings.

Gross disposable income displayed an annual rise 2.5% to €86.3 billion, with increases in wages (+1.0% to €68.8 billion) and, in particular, self-employed profits (+11.1% to €19.5 billion) accounting for the rise.  Household expenditure rose 0.5% to €77.9 billion and the household gross savings ratio increased from 10.7% in 2011 to 12.5% in 2012 with gross savings of €11.1 billion.

The measure of the government sector in the accounts recorded a net borrowing requirement of €12.2 billion in 2012.  Gross savings increased in the NFC sector, rising from €14.7 billion in 2011 to €16.4 billion in 2012.

‘Panic Driven Austerity’

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Friday, March 1st, 2013

Paul de Grauwe and Yuemei Ji have an interesting commentary on the causes and effects of austerity here.

Benchmarking current economic performance in the US (and elsewhere)

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Monday, October 8th, 2012

Moritz Schularick and Alan Taylor have a useful piece on the topic, informed by economic history, here.

Inflation in Ireland and the Euro area

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Saturday, August 18th, 2012

In an earlier post I drew attention to the extent to which Ireland’s recent apparent competitive gains reflected the weakness of the euro relative to the dollar and sterling.

Another component of competitiveness is, of course, our rate of inflation relative to that of the Euro area as a whole.

It is therefore of interest to put on record the inflation rates in Ireland and in the Euro area since 1999.

This is facilitated by the European Central Bank’s website, from which monthly data on the rate of inflation as measured by the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) may be readily downloaded.

The following Chart tells the story.

It may be seen that for the first five years of the new monetary union Ireland’s inflation rate was – contrary to expectations – significantly higher than the Euro area average.  This resulted in a significant loss of competitiveness relative to the rest of the Euro area.

For the years between 2004 and 2007 our inflation rate behaved as expected in a monetary union and differed little from that of the Euro area average.

During 2009 and 2010 we experienced more deflation than the rest of the Euro area. This helped restore some of the competitiveness we had lost in the early years of membership and the ‘internal devaluation’ was hailed at the time in the belief that it would play a big role in getting the economy moving again.

Since 2010, however, our inflation rate has been climbing back up towards the Euro area average.

It would seem that any further ‘restoration of competitiveness’ will require further weakness of the euro on the foreign exchange markets.

Regaining Competitiveness

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Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

The orthodox view is that enhanced competitiveness should play a significant part in Ireland’s (and other euro area countries’) recovery from recession.

In the March 2012 “Review Under the Extended Arrangement” the IMF team states that:

“Ireland’s economy has shown a capacity for export-led growth, aided by significant progress in unwinding past competitiveness losses.” (my italics)

The evidence does indeed point to a significant improvement in Ireland’s competitiveness between 2008 and the present.  The following two graphs show the ECB’s ‘Harmonized  Competitiveness Indicator’ (HCI) based on (a) Consumer Prices and (b) Unit Labour Costs.  (A rising index implies a loss of competitiveness.) Both graphs show a competitive gain since 2008, with second  showing the more dramatic improvement. However, this measure is affected by the changing composition of the labour force, which became smaller but more high-tech as a result of the collapse of many low-productivity sectors during the recession.

Concentrating on the HCI based on the CPI, the Irish competitive gain has still been impressive – our HCI fell 17% between mid-2008 and mid-2012, giving us the largest competitive gain recorded in any of the 17 euro-area countries over these years.  Greece, at the other extreme, recorded no change in its HCI, Portugal fell only 4.5%, Spain 6.6%, Italy 6.8%.  So by this measure Ireland is some PIIG(S)!

However, we need to dig deeper and understand why Ireland’s HCI has fallen so steeply.

Part of the story – the part on which some commentators dwell – is that early in the recession the Irish price level and Irish nominal wages fell. From a peak of 108 in 2008 the Irish Consumer Price Index fell to 100 in January 2010. But it has started to rise again – by mid-2012 it was back up to 105. The fall in the Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices has been even less impressive – from a peak of 110 to a low of 105 and now rising back to its previous peak.

Wages are more important than prices as an index of competitiveness because price indices are influenced by indirect taxes and include many non-traded services and administered prices. But Irish nominal wages tell much the same story as the price indices. The index of hourly earnings in manufacturing peaked around 106 at the end of 2009 (2008 = 100) and then fell to a low of 102 in 2011, where it appears to have stabilized.  Even in the construction sector, where employment collapsed in the wake of the building bust, wage rates declined only 6 per cent between 2008 and 2011.

Falling wages and prices are in line with what many commentators thought would happen after the surge in unemployment in 2008.  Widely-publicized wage cuts in the private and public sectors were seen as part of the ‘internal devaluation’ needed to rescue the Irish economy from the recession.  It was argued that this was the only way we could engineer a reduction in our real exchange rate given our commitment to the euro. (Paul Krugman likes to refer pejoratively to an ‘internal devaluation’ as simply ‘wage cuts’.)

However,  the Irish wage and price deflation has not been very dramatic and seems to have stalled in 2011, even though the unemployment rate continues to climb.

So why has Ireland’s competitiveness improved so sharply since 2008 if the ‘internal devaluation’ has been so modest?  The answer, of course, lies in the behaviour of the euro on world currency markets and the fact that non-euro area trade is much more important for  Ireland than for any other member of the EMU.

This can be seen by looking at the HCI for the euro area as a whole.  The euro area HCI fell from 100 in mid-2008 to 84.7 in mid-2012 – almost as big a fall as was recorded for Ireland and far higher than that recorded in any other euro area country.

The paradox that the euro area HCI has fallen much further than the average (however weighted) of the constituent EMU countries is explained by the fact that for each individual country the HCI is compiled using weights that reflect the structure of that country’s total international trade, but for the euro area as a whole the weights reflect the only the area’s trade with the non-euro world.

In its notes on the series the ECB draws attention to this:

“The purpose of harmonized competitiveness indicators (HCIs) is to provide consistent and comparable measures of euro area countries’ price and cost competitiveness that are also consistent with the real effective exchange rates (EERs) of the euro. The HCIs are constructed using the same methodology and data sources that are used for the euro EERs. While the HCI of a specific country takes into account both intra and extra-euro area trade, however, the euro EERs  are based on extra-euro area trade only.” (my italics)

It is understandable that Ireland should show a large competitive gain by euro area standards as the euro declined on world markets after 2008 because non-euro area trade is far more important to Ireland than to any of the other 16 members of the EMU. A fall in the dollar value of the euro does nothing to make France more competitive relative to Germany, or Greece relative to either of them, but it does a lot for Ireland relative to its two most important trading partners – the UK and the US.

As a consequence, the decline in the value of the euro on world currency markets, and especially relative to sterling and the dollar, has had a much larger effect on our competitiveness than on that of any other euro area country.

The following graph shows the USD / EUR exchange rate and Ireland’s HCI since 2008.  It does not take any econometrics to convince me that the main driving force behind Ireland’s competitive gain has been the weakness of the euro.  Undoubtedly a more sophisticated treatment, including the euro-sterling and other exchange rates of importance to Ireland – duly weighted – would show an even closer co-movement.

This should alert us to the point that Ireland’s much-praised recent competitive gain has been due more to the weakening of the euro on the world currency markets than to domestic wage and price discipline.

No doubt it could also be shown that a significant amount of the loss of competitiveness in the years before 2008 was due to the strength of the euro.

The fault – and the blame – lay not with us but with the far-from-optimal currency arrangement under which we labour.

Continuing gains in  competitiveness would therefore seem to depend more on further euro weakness than on the process of ‘internal devaluation’.  Should this have been a condition of our Agreement with the Troika?

We’re different, roysh? The decoupling of the Dublin property market

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Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Today sees the launch of the fiftieth Daft Report, with a commentary by yours truly. To mark the occasion, and to mark five years of Ireland’s property market crash, Daft.ie and the All-Island Research Observatory at NUI Maynooth, have launched a property value heatmap tool. In a companion post to this one, I outline the tool, how it works and what it tells us about Ireland’s property market crash.

In this post, though, I’d like to highlight what’s in the report itself. The principal finding from Q2 was that conditions in the Dublin market do indeed look to have improved considerably since the start of the year. This has happened at a time when conditions elsewhere in the country are pretty much unchanged. It seems the decoupling of the Dublin property market from the rest of the country has already begun.

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Get them while they’re hot (or cold): Heatmaps of property values in Ireland now available

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Monday, July 2nd, 2012

As I note in the companion post to this one, today sees the launch of the fiftieth Daft Report, with a commentary by yours truly. To mark the occasion, and to mark five years of Ireland’s property market crash, Daft.ie and the All-Island Research Observatory at NUI Maynooth, have launched a property value heatmap tool. In this post, I’ll give an outline of what the tool is and does, and what we can learn from it.

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Measuring Youth Unemployment

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Friday, June 29th, 2012

The problem of youth unemployment has rightly been highlighted as one of the major issues facing European countries today.  The newspapers have fastened on the shocking statistic that the unemployment rate among Spaniards and Greeks aged 15 – 25 is about 50 per cent, while the rate for the EU as a whole is about 20 per cent.  These are alarming numbers, but they are also somewhat misleading.

As Stephen Hill pointed out in a piece in the Financial Times on June 24th, the unemployment rate may not be the best measure of labour market conditions among young people who have opportunities to stay in the educational and training systems rather than entering a depressed labour market.  For this reason, an alternative measure, the unemployment ratio, has gained currency.

The conventional unemployment rate is  the numbers ‘unemployed’ as a proportion of the ‘labour force’.  The ‘labour force’ is the sum of the employed and unemployed.  The ‘unemployed’ are those actively seeking work, but not at work. (For young people it is of interest to break unemployment down into those ‘looking for first regular job’ and those who are ‘unemployed having lost or given up previous job’.)

The problem with using the  unemployment rate to measure labour market conditions among young people is that the denominator does not include those who are in the educational system or on full-time training courses.  During a recession, the higher the proportion of a youth cohort that stays on in school or college or in training, the smaller the labour force and the higher the unemployment rate. This is perverse.

By using the whole cohort as the denominator, the unemployment ratio avoids this pitfall and it may be argued that it therefore provides a clearer picture of hardship being caused by the lack of employment. (Of course this is subject to the reservation that increased educational participation may involve putting square pegs in round holes, with some young people taking courses in which they have no interest.)

The limitations of the unemployment rate as a measure of labour market conditions among the youth population is acknowledged by Eurostat, who now publish both the ratio and the rate for the population aged 15-24.  (Their recent figures for Ireland for 2011 are low and may not reflect the latest Census returns.)

The distinction between the unemployment rate and ratio certainly matters.  Data in the recently-released 2011 Census of Population volume This is Ireland Part 2 show the population classified by ‘principal economic status’. These reveal an unemployment rate of 38.7 per cent among the population aged 15-24 compared with an unemployment ratio of 14.2 per cent. While the ratio of 14.2 per cent gives no grounds for complacency, it is less alarming than the headline rate of almost 40 per cent.

It is perhaps even more important to note that the unemployment ratio has not risen as dramatically as the unemployment rate since the onset of the recession in 2008. The Figure displays the three concepts based on the 2006 and 2011 Census data.

(The Table at the end provides more details.)

Whereas the unemployment rate rose by 140% the ratio rose by 90%.  Thus, the rate tends to overstate both the level of unemployment among young people and the rate at which it has risen.

It may, however, be objected that the unemployment ratio includes all those who are not in the labour force in the denominator but excludes discouraged workers and similar forms of disguised unemployment from the numerator.  This bias would certainly be significant among older workers, who are more likely to cease looking for work and to drop out of the labour force because no jobs are available.  Its effect on the youth data, however, is smaller because labour force categories other than ‘employed’, ‘student, and ‘unemployed’ are relatively unimportant among the young.  In 2011 less than 2 per cent of population aged 15- 24 are classified as ‘looking after home/family’!

None the less, to take account of ‘dsicouraged workers’ it is worth looking at another concept that has gained some currency .  This is the NEET ratio. It refers to the proportion of the population that is Not in Employment, Education or Training.  To calculate this ratio for Ireland I have assumed that those in ‘(full-time) training’ are classified as ‘students’ in the Census.  The resulting ratio must, by definition, fall between the unemployment ratio and the unemployment rate.  From the Figure we can see that it lies closer to the unemployment ratio. Moreover, it has risen less rapidly than either the unemployment rate or ratio.   In 2011 the NEET ratio was ‘only’ 65 per cent above it 2006 level.

It is striking that the widely-used unemployment rate is so much higher, and has risen so much more, than the alternative – and arguably better – measures of the situation in the youth labour market.

The reason why the unemployment rate overstates both the level and rise in Irish youth unemployment is the high level of educational participation and its marked increase over the past five years. The proportion of the 15-24 year-old population in the educational system rose from 50.1 per cent in 2006 to 60.5 per cent in 2011.  While not all of the additional years of schooling will be as productive as we would wish, being in the educational system is less wasteful than being unemployed.  This aspect of the adjustment to the present crisis is concealed by the conventional youth unemployment rate.

None the less, we cannot lose sight of the collapse of employment among the youth population.  In 2006 39.5 per cent of the population aged 15-24 was in employment.  By 2011 this percentage had fallen to 22.5.  Among those aged 20-24 the rate declined from 60.0 to 39.0.  While the youth unemployment crisis may not be as severe as suggested by the headline youth unemployment rate, it is a crisis.

The possible shape of a second bailout for Ireland

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Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

..is discussed in the Irish Times today by my UL colleague Donal Donovan. From the piece:

The prospects for Ireland being able to access sufficient market funding by late 2013 do not appear favourable. The lending environment for sovereigns in much of the euro zone has worsened steadily and, barring miracles in Greece and Spain, is unlikely to improve sharply soon. Notwithstanding Ireland’s Yes vote and continued adherence to the troika programme, we can’t avoid being affected by the general market nervousness. Ireland’s budget deficit, at 8-9 per cent of gross domestic product, remains the highest among debt-distressed euro zone members.

Even under favourable assumptions, without specific debt-alleviation measures, the debt to GDP ratio will be over 100 per cent – second only to Greece – for some time.

Despite encouraging words from European Central Bank president Mario Draghi, it is hard to be confident that the estimated €40 billion needed to cover the budget deficit and repay maturing debt obligations in 2014-2015 can be obtained at affordable market terms.

The fall in GNP

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Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Over the past week or so there have been a number of references to the fall in GNP that occurred in late 2011 as reported in the most recent set of Quarterly National Accounts released by the CSO.

Vincent Browne in particular has focused on the 7.1% fall in GNP recorded in Q4 2011 when compared to Q4 2010 as if it is indicative of some of cataclysmic collapse in the economy.  The seasonally adjusted quarterly real change was a drop of 2.2% in Q4 but even that may not be reflective of changes in the economy.

GNP is often referred to as a better indicator of the domestic economy than GDP because it “excludes the impact of the multinationals”.  That is not necessarily true.  GDP includes the net exports of the MNC sector and it is worth noting that in 2009 the top 10 MNCs accounting for one-third of Irish exports and imports (see slide 14).

GNP does not remove the trading performance of the MNCs as a measure of national income; it adds in the effect of Net Factor Income from Abroad.  This will, of course, be heavily influenced by the performance of the MNCs and the profits earned from their exports will largely exit in this fashion.

The point is that GNP can move because of a change in the export performance of the MNCs or a change in the profit repatriation decisions of the MNCs.  The decisions of the MNCs have two avenues to impact our GNP figures.  The assumption may be that one will offset the other but that is not necessarily the case.

If we look at the real seasonally adjusted changes in the components of GNP.

Component Q4 2010 Q3 2011 Q4 2011 Annual Quarterly

Consumption

20,983

20,400

20,506

-2.3%

+0.5%

Investment

4,277

3,702

4,221

-1.3%

+14.0%

Government

6,866

6,611

6,389

-6.9%

-3.4%

(C + I + G)

32,126

30,713

31,116

-3.1%

+1.3%

Exports

38,929

40,752

40,287

+3.5%

-1.1%

Imports

(31,397)

(30,639)

(30,319)

-3.4%

-1.0%

(X – M)

7,532

10,113

9,968

+32.3%

-1.4%

GDP

39,721

40,180

40,100

+1.0%

-0.2%

Net Income

(5,427)

(7,969)

(8,711)

-60.5%

-9.3%

GNP

33,925

32,225

31,523

-7.1%

-2.2%

The annual figures are poor and there is a €2.4 billion drop in quarterly GNP over the year.  Although the seasonally adjusted figures are not additive it is instructive to do so to get an indicator of where the annual 7% drop came from.

All of consumption, investment and government have fallen but their sum contributes €1.0 billion of the drop.   Net exports (driven by the MNCs) rose by €2.4 billion over the year but this was more than offset by a €3.3 billion reduction in net factor income from abroad. 

A large proportion of the change in GNP is a result of changes in exports and net factor income.  About 90% of our exports are from MNCs and you can use the Balance of Payments to track income flows (noting though that the this does not include seasonally adjusted data).  It seems that the expected drop in the outflow of investment income in the final quarter of the year was not as large as anticipated, thus becoming a seasonally adjusted increase in the outflow of investment income as reflected in the table above.

If we look at the quarterly changes we see that both consumption and investment rose in Q4 2011 (although investment was at an extremely low level to begin with).  This is not suggestive of an economy in freefall in the latter quarters of 2011.

Ireland national income statistics are hugely influenced by the presence of MNCs.  Although GNP is a useful indicator it is important to realise that changes in GNP are not necessarily reflective of changes in the domestic economy.  The CSO do provide tables on ‘Domestic Demand’ which is the bulk of the “Irish” economy (as opposed to the economy in Ireland) but that excludes the performance of indigenous exporting firms.

Labour Costs

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Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

The question of achieving an ‘internal devaluation’ has been raised in a late contribution to the previous thread.  It deserves more attention than it tends to receive on this site.

The phrase refers to improving competitiveness in the absence of a national exchange rate by reducing costs and prices relative to those of competitor countries.

Labour costs are a major component of domestic costs and one over which we retain ‘sovereignty’.

In March Eurostat published some relevant data on hourly wage costs. (Today’s Irish Independent carries a summary of the report.)

In 2011 Irish hourly labour costs were €27.4, which was 99.3 per cent of the Eurozone (EZ) average of €27.6.  In 2008 (the peak year) Irish labour costs were 105.7 of the EZ average, so there has been some improvement in this measure of our competitiveness.

However, Irish costs remain much higher than those in several EZ countries.  Here are some relevant comparisons: Spain €20.6, Slovenia €14.4, Portugal €12.1 and Estonia €8.1.  Outside the EZ the UK figure is €20.1, while the US Bureau of Labor Statistics gives a figure of $34.2 for hourly labour costs in US manufacturing in 2010 compared with $36.3 for Ireland.

Obviously all EZ countries cannot gain competitiveness relative to each other by reducing labour costs, although the EZ as a whole could become more cost-competitive relative to the rest of world by this strategy.   However, I think it is clear that we would have to wait a long time to see any dramatic results from this source either in Ireland or in the EZ as a whole.

Jan 27th Conference on Irish Economy – UPDATE

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Friday, January 13th, 2012

Just an update on the planned conference on the economy, part of a sequence of Dublin Economic Workshop meetings in collaboration with the Universities (in this case UCD Geary Institute and UL).

Firstly – venue.   We had planned a city hotel but (a) demand, and (b) lack of appropriate supply, has caused us problems.   So we are pleased to have booked the Conference Centre at Croke Park for the event.  Details on the venue are here – parking (lots), transport (lots) and wifi too for your iPads.

Secondly – RSVPs.   Thanks for those that replied to emma.barron@ucd.ie to give your details.   If you have, you are DEFINITELY on the list (just the volume of response means that Emma has not managed to reply to all, plus she was perhaps going to have to cull the list due to capacity issues (she has a black belt – I kid you not!)).   Due to her efforts at getting the venue we are fine and in fact would like to encourage more of you to come along – again RSVP to Emma.   One favour – if you do RSVP, come along.  While this is free to all to attend, it is not free for the organizers so we may be able to adjust the rooms booked etc.   Also, while we will DEFINITELY NOT be providing lunch but there will be some catering on the day (coffee etc) so it would be great to have pretty clear figures for all of that stuff.

Thirdly – webcasting etc.   We will record and upload after the event – youtube and through the Geary Institute iTunes ‘channel’.   We hope to webcast live but not certain at this point.   We will set a hashtag on twitter and will use the Institute twitter account on the day (@ucdgearyinst) to encourage interaction from those who can’t make it, from those outside the country etc.

Finally – latest draft of the programme is below.  We will update titles etc as we go along.

Thanks again for the patience and the support – RSVP please to emma.barron@ucd.ie, and see you there!

DEW Conference on Irish Economic Policy

Croke Park Conference Centre, Dublin, January 27th 2012

0830-0900

Registration and Opening

0900-1030

Economic Policy and Evaluation

Property Market

Chair: Donal DeButleir (IFPRC)

Robert Watt (Department PER)

Tom Healy (CERU)

Frances Ruane (ESRI)

Chair: Stephen Kinsella (UL)

Ronan Lyons (Oxford) – “Residential Site Value Tax in Ireland: Land Values, Implementation & Revenues.”

Michelle Norris (UCD)

Rob Kitchin (NUIM) – “Prospects for the Irish Property Market.”

1030-1100

Coffee

1100-1230

Unemployment

Demography

Chair: Minister Joan Burton T.D.

David Bell (Stirling)

Aedin Doris (Maynooth)

Philip O’Connell (ESRI) – “The Impact of Training Programme Type and Duration on the Employment Chances of the Unemployed in Ireland.”

Chair: Kevin Denny (UCD)

Orla Doyle (UCD) – “Early Educational Investment as an Economic Recovery Strategy.”

Alan Barrett/Irene Mosca (ESRI) – “The Costs of Emigration to the Individual: Evidence from Ireland’s Older Adults.”

Brendan Walsh (UCD) –“Well Being and Economic Conditions in Ireland.”

1230-1330

Lunch

1330-1500

Banking and Euro

Economic Recovery – Can Competition, Regulation and Privatisation Help?

Chair: Constantin Gurdgiev (TCD)

Brian Lucey (TCD) – “Banking in Ireland – Back to the Future.”

Frank Barry (TCD) – “Rectifying Design Flaws in the Euro Project”

Karl Whelan (UCD) – “Scenarios for the Euro Crisis.”

Chair: Cathal Guiomard (CAR)

Richard Tol (Sussex) – “Energy Regulation in Ireland – Some Current Weaknesses and Lessons for Recovery.”

John Fingleton (UK Office of Fair Trading) – “Economic Growth – How Can Competition Policy Help?”

Doug Andrew (former London Airport regulator) – “Governance, Ownership and Reform.”

1500-1530

Coffee

1530-1700

Fiscal Policy

Chair: Dan O’Brien (Irish Times)

Philip Lane (TCD) – “The Fiscal Responsibility Bill.”

John McHale (NUIG) – “Strengthening Ireland’s Fiscal Institutions.”

Seamus Coffey (UCC) – “Current and Capital Expenditure: Getting the Balance Right.”

Colm McCarthy (UCD) – “Public Capital Investment and Fiscal Stabilization.”

1700-1800

Panel Session on Irish Economy

The Exchequer Balance

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Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Yesterday’s release of the end-of-year Exchequer Statement provides the opportunity to update the quick look we gave to the mid-year figures.  The conclusions drawn in July are largely unchanged.  First the overall Exchequer Balance. 

At €24,917 million in 2011, this was the largest Exchequer deficit ever recorded.  The Press Statement released with the figures says that it’s not too bad though.

The Exchequer deficit in 2011 was €24.9 billion compared to a deficit of €18.7 billion in 2010. The €6.2 billion increase in the deficit is due to higher non-voted capital expenditure resulting primarily from banking related payments. The majority of these payments are once-off payments relating to the recapitalisation of the banks  and an exchequer deficit of €18.9 billion is forecast for 2012.

Excluding banking related payments the Exchequer deficit fell by €2¾ billion year-on-year.

Ah, “once-off” banking payments.  Next year’s “once-off” banking payments will be €1.3 billion to IL&P and possibly some further payments to the credit union sector.  So what €8.95 billion of “banking related payments” do we have to remove to turn a €6.2 billion deterioration in the Exchequer deficit into a €2.75 billion improvement?

UPDATE: I had guessed what was included in this calculation but the Department of Finance have posted a useful presentation providing the details.   This is from slide 4.

The issue is the inclusion of the Promissory Notes.  If we exclude this €3.1 billion payment along with all the other banking amounts then the Exchequer Deficit is lower this year. 

We didn’t make a payment on the Promissory Notes last year but we will make this €3.1 billion payment each year to 2023 and lower payments right up to 2031.  From next year there will be accrued interest added to the Promissory Notes that will increase the General Government Debt.  You cannot exclude something that is going to happen for the next two decades as a basis for saying the deficit is getting smaller.

We can strip out a lot of the banking complications by looking at the balance of the Exchequer current account.  This does include the €1.2 billion of income earned from providing the guarantee to the covered banks which is counted as current revenue.

The final outturn and annual pattern of current account deficit has been largely unchanged for each of the last three years.  Between 2007 and 2009 there was a €20 billion deterioration in the current balance.  In the two years since the achievement has been to keep the drop to €20 billion.  There has been no improvement in the current account deficit.

Looking the Exchequer interest payments gives some insight into how this has been achieved.

For a country that has to borrow to fund the deficits shown above it is pretty amazing that the interest expense in 2011 was lower than in 2010.  The explanation is that some of the interest costs were covered from an account other than the Exchequer Account.  Again, the press statement is helpful.

Taking into account the funds used from the Capital Services Redemption Account (CSRA) as well as Exchequer payments, total debt service expenditure was up €1.1 billion year-on-year in 2011, at close to €5.4 billion. This reflects the burden of servicing a higher stock of debt.

For 2011, the Budget target was a General Government Deficit of 9.4% of GDP.  The actual deficit will be around 10.0% of GDP.  This slippage (largely the result of lower than expected tax revenue) was not a significant issue as the deficit limit set by the European Commission was 10.6% of GDP. 

For 2012, the Budget target is a deficit of 8.6% of GDP.  The deficit limit set by the EC is also 8.6% of GDP.  If there is any slippage or lower than expected nominal growth we will not meet the deficit limit.

European Commission Report on Ireland: December 2011

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Thursday, December 15th, 2011

The latest European Commission report on Ireland is available here. Lots of interesting stuff in it. One bit that caught my eye is a discussion of an internal report prepared by the Central Bank

A second report covering the use of certain types of credit limits, from a prudential point of view, is at an early stage of development. This would take under consideration policy tools including Mortgage Insurance Guarantees and Loan-to-Value (LTV) limits, as well as potentially fixing all interest rates for certain products such as mortgages.

It’s not obvious to me that banning variable rate mortgages is a good idea, either from the point of view of consumers or from the point of view of international financial institions considering coming into Ireland to offer mortgages. While fixed-rate mortgages do offer increased stability, the premium required is quite large so that financing costs would be higher on average (and house prices probably that bit lower as a result).

There are various reasons why fixed-rate mortgages are not common in Ireland or the UK (this 2004 report on the UK mortgage market by David Miles discusses this issue in detail). But banning variable rate mortgages seems to be an extreme proposal.