As noted in this blog last week, there has been a significant recovery in the labour market for both Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. However it was also noted that the pace of recovery in the labour market has not so far been reflected in economic growth. While UK economic growth is now reaching 3% per year, the economy has only just returned to its pre-crisis peak and it is nearly the last of the G7 economies to do so (Italy still lags behind). Furthermore most of the recent growth has been fueled by population increases as GDP per capita is still almost 5% below peak. In Northern Ireland the situation is arguably worse, as the quarterly Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index showed a contraction in the first quarter of 2014.
These contrasting trends lead to questions about the type of labour market recovery we are having. It is not enough to look at employment versus unemployment, we need to examine how employment may have changed. We need to examine how the profile of those in employment has changed, where they are employed and how they are employed. The expansion of low pay and insecure work practices could be key to understanding the productivity conundrum posed by contrasting economic statistics. The latest NERI Working Paper looks at these issues in depth and examines the policy challenges they present. The paper is here