No leprechaun in the job numbers

Rapid recovery in employment is welcome but it highlights the volatility at the heart of our economy

Central Statistics Office figures show there are 377,000 more people at work this year than at the height of the recession in 2012. Photograph: Getty Images

Central Statistics Office figures show there are 377,000 more people at work this year than at the height of the recession in 2012. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Analysts have a hard time stripping out the underlying from the noise when it comes to the Irish economy.

Since 2013, Irish gross domestic product (GDP) has grown by 50 per cent, placing Ireland ahead of China in global growth terms, and putting the value of the Irish economy at €300 billion.

That means, on paper at least, we’re more than 50 per cent wealthier than we were at the height of the boom. Say that to a typical worker, harassed by runaway housing costs and stung by several years of emergency taxes, and you’re liable to get a punch in the nose.

Telling people they’re in the midst of a remarkable economic turnaround when they’re not feeling it is a dangerous thing, as the Government found out at the last election.

Because the headline growth numbers are so warped by multinational activity, economists tend to point to employment as the true measure of the Ireland’s recovery.

Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures, published on Friday, show there are 377,000 more people at work this year than at the height of the recession in 2012, and that total employment is now at a record high of 2.255 million. The pre-crash peak was 2.237 million.

Even with the caveats about employment and participation rates, which remain lower than during the boom, the jobs-rich nature of our recovery is unquestionable.

When developing economies generate this level of employment growth the relevant Minsters are usually toasted as architects of an economic miracle and can command big bucks on the lecture circuit.

Because much of ours was a bounce back; because workers here have seen little in the way of real wage growth; and because so much of the turnaround is driven by the global trading environment and the seemingly endless reservoir of inward investment from the US; the architects of our turnaroud are less lauded.

The rapid return to near full employment here is undeniably a good thing, but it highlights a remarkable volatility at the heart of the Irish economy that allows us go from boom to bust to boom again in barely 10 years.

Stability is not what we do here.

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