Too early to herald a recovery

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The proverbial ‘green shoots’, heralding economic recovery, has become a clichéd phrase over the past two years, as we grapple with the ongoing recession and financial meltdown.

The proverbial ‘green shoots’, heralding economic recovery, has become a clichéd phrase over the past two years, as we grapple with the ongoing recession and financial meltdown.

Depending on your outlook, the green shoots have been seen everywhere, or nowhere.

On balance they have proved to be elusive, despite the appetite of the public for some good economic news.

The much maligned green shoots were once again hauled out for the recent jobs and retail figures which were hailed tentatively in some quarters as evidence that a recovery is slowly underway.

Indeed, for the past two quarters the economic figures have been good, prompting speculation that a turnaround is taking place.And a consideration of the economic data shows that there is room for some hope.

Jobs, for example, are trickling back, slowly, and the statistics shows that there has been an increase in the number of full time jobs.

The unemployment rate now stands at a still very high 13.7 per cent, but down from the 15 per cent high.

While jobs are still being lost in the public sector and in retail, there are signs of an upturn in the agricultural, and industrial sectors, as well as the private sector services sector.

Also, by all appearances the hotel and restaurant sector seems to be doing well.

However, all this has to be tempered by the realisation that it is still too early to ascertain what is going on.

Many analysts point out that because the jobs market fell so dramatically, more information will be needed, and a few more quarters will have to tell their story, before the picture becomes clearer.

The impact of the crash on jobs can be gauged by the fact that the number of people at work dropped by more than 320,000 between 2008 and 2012, leading to the 15 per cent unemployment rate.

A further and hugely significant qualification in all this is the rate of emigration.

Talk or contemplation of economic recovery is tempered greatly by the fact that 1,000 people a week are still leaving the country.

Last year almost 51,000 people emigrated, many forced to do so to find work.

It is a familiar story, but imagine what the scale of the crisis would be if the option of emigration was not available.

Sad as it is, but emigration has been a safety valve for this country for decades, and it is now again in the teeth of this deep recession.

Talk of a putative economic recovery has to be placed firmly within this context.