Your business week: Unemployment figures and happy workforces

March unemployment figures can be a key weather vane of the country’s health but Brexit storm clouds are gathering

A queue for unemployment benefit outside Bishop Street Social Welfare Office in Dublin this morning. File Photograph: Frank Miller

A queue for unemployment benefit outside Bishop Street Social Welfare Office in Dublin this morning. File Photograph: Frank Miller

 

Monday

Indicators: Euro zone manufacturing PMI (Mar), inflation (Mar); UK manufacturing PMI (Mar); German manufacturing PMI (Mar); US retail sales (Mar), manufacturing PMI (Mar), construction spending (Feb).

Tuesday

Results: Hostelworld, Malin.

Indicators: Irish unemployment (Mar); Euro zone unemployment (Feb), PPI (Feb); UK construction PMI (Mar); US vehicle sales (Mar).

Meetings: Ireland Water Conference (Pillo Hotel, Ashbourne, Co Meath); Meitheal 2019 - Fáilte Ireland’s largest International Travel Trade Fair (Citywest Hotel, Dublin).

It has been the case for some time now that a trend in positive economic indicators is taken for granted.

This is particularly true of unemployment data (March figures released on Tuesday), a key weather vane of the country’s health. However, storm clouds are gathering over Westminster that threaten our sunny outlook.

Central Statistics Office (CSO) numbers actually rose slightly between January and February but it was a minor indiscretion in a generally unmolested march toward “zero unemployment”.

Having reached almost 15 per cent in the gloom of 2011, the number has dropped between December, 2015 and December, 2018 from 8.8 per cent to 5.3 per cent. It has remained a regular fixture in Fine Gael’s hall of “responsible government” exhibits.

But there is little the Government can do about Brexit and the political uncertainty that continues this week. Tuesday’s data is a timely reminder of what hangs in the balance for Ireland.

Last week a sobering report from the Department of Finance and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) predicted that in the event of the dreaded “no deal” Brexit, Ireland could face losing up to 80,000 jobs, the kind of decline that would undo much of the aforementioned progress.

That would be a reduction of 3.4 per cent which, if such a thing occurred overnight, would bring today’s unemployment rate to about 9 per cent.

Wednesday

Indicators: Euro zone composite and services PMI (Mar), retail sales (Feb); UK services PMI (Mar); German composite and service PMI (Mar); US composite and services PMI (Mar), factory orders (Feb).

Meetings: Ibec employment law conference (Croke Park, Dublin 3); South East Business Expo (WIT, Waterford).

Thursday

Indicators: Irish industrial production (Feb); UK new car sales (Mar); German factory orders (Feb), construction PMI (Mar).

Meetings: Procurex Ireland conference on public procurement (RDS, Dublin 4); The People Summit on HR (RDS, Dublin 4); Happy Workplaces 2019 conference on creating positive working environments (Gibson Hotel, Point Village, Dublin 1).

What makes a happy workforce?

Virgin and Netflix employees decide on their own holidays. Others choose their own leaders and set their own targets.

The reality is, it is probably a combination of everything and much of it will depend on the type of organisation that wants to know. The Happy Workplaces 2019 conference examines many of the concepts that are slowly shaping 21st century offices.

Organiser Stephen Dargan, who has a background in corporate culture, does not like the idea of unlimited holidays - they have the reverse effect, he says - but does believe change is afoot in how employers treat their staff, and all for the better.

“People are not teenagers anymore but that’s what we tend to do...we treat them like teenagers,” he said. “We have a lot of companies that celebrate mistakes because we learn from them.”

With the prominence of tech HQs, Irish workplaces are adapting to new cultural practices more quickly than most - already about 260,000 people work remotely.

Thursday’s event will hear from, among others, Ken Tormey on “smart working” at Typetec; Terri Moloney, senior director of employee success at Salesforce; and Sarah Metcalfe on customer service at Petcare.

Friday

Indicators: UK house price index (Mar), labour productivity (Q4); German industrial production (Feb); US non-farm payrolls and unemployment (Mar).

Meetings: UCD Business Alumni Awards (InterContinental Hotel, Dublin); Executive Summit (Clontarf Castle, Dublin 3); IAB Connect conference on digital advertising (Guinness Storehouse, Dublin 8).

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