Because I’m a cranky git who is largely distrustful of economists, I couldn’t let go of a sense of distrust of what was being presented in this graph:
The Irish economy has increased employment more in the past four years than in the 70 years from 1926 to 1996.pic.twitter.com/Ps6JFnduH6
I’m suspicious that this is simply “bigging up” Fine Gael and being misleading in doing so.
For me, the number at work on its own doesn’t give a complete picture; particularly over a 90 year period. Ireland’s population has changed significantly over that period of time and can’t be omitted when considering economic performance (I reckon, anyway). On that basis I argue that employment rate is the appropriate indicator of labour market performance for a national economy.
So I’ve taken the various data with which to present the employment rate over the period 1926 to 2016:
- QNHS sourced from http://www.cso.ie/en/qnhs/releasesandpublications/qnhspostcensusofpopulation2011/ showing QNHS Release – Time Series Tables (XLS 1,350KB)
- Total at work, taken from CNKL1: Population 15 years and Over by Employment Status, Industrial Group, Sex and Year (selection: Total at Work, All Industries, All Persons for all years available). The output for this is shown in the table below:
|Population 15 years and Over (Number) by Sex, Industrial Group,
Employment Status and Year
|All Persons||All Industries||Total at Work||1223014||1235424||1227745||1219722||1052539||1065987||1054839||1137827||1091155||1149080||1307236|
- I’ve then used the population data from CNA15: Population by Age Group, Sex, Year and Statistic to get the population for 15-64 year olds over the same time range and selecting the same years (so that means not selecting 1979, 2002, 2006 or 2011 as the latter three are in the QNHS dataset)
|Population (Number) by Sex, Age Group and Year|
|Both sexes||15 – 19 years||286187||268326||251487||241182||233832||259356||267727||326429||331100||335026||339536|
|20 – 24 years||240231||254513||231290||202172||158007||185289||215251||276127||286424||266572||293354|
|25 – 29 years||215401||216785||208188||198421||145377||149317||172993||246053||258439||246321||259045|
|30 – 34 years||183300||183284||204696||191566||152787||146625||151351||231958||242689||249071||260929|
|35 – 39 years||175759||192420||191882||200916||166793||154272||149107||193829||229740||237889||255676|
|40 – 44 years||169085||162905||165597||180326||170293||163362||152729||165924||191751||225683||240441|
|45 – 49 years||168893||156583||173062||160915||174625||166517||160124||151850||161740||187762||225400|
|50 – 54 years||162718||152707||137492||162986||157122||164957||159082||149680||147511||156806||186647|
|55 – 59 years||125713||143441||134859||128848||136123||147064||154847||149606||142215||142549||153807|
|60 – 64 years||105146||130378||119225||122060||131060||123840||134066||139266||139978||134566||137946|
- Combining the CNKL1 and CNA15 data I get
|Number at work||1223014||1235424||1227745||1219722||1052539||1065987||1054839||1137827||1091155||1149080||1307236|
- QNHS Table8a-EmploymentRates shows data by quarter so I took a simple average for the year and get
- Finally, I’ve taken the overall population from CDD01: Population by Sex, Province or County and CensusYear to show how the population has changed over time.
We can then plot this combined data: Primary y-axis show employment rate (a percentage) and the secondary y-axis shows number of jobs and population (all ages) in millions.
- The employment rate and the “numbers at work” chart show somewhat similar trends over the last 20 years but the interpretation should be markedly different.
- The increase in population which show that comparisons with the early and mid parts of the 20th century shouldn’t ignore the impact of population change i.e. absolute job numbers don’t have context.
- The employment rate today is back at end of the century levels; we’re barely midway to recovering to peak levels. Since the 2012 minima, the employment rate is only up ~8% over the period to now. That recovery is obviously good news but it’s not earth shattering.
- That increase in employment rate needs to be viewed against the overall state of the economy as it affects the nation; the health service is teetering towards collapse and we have a homelessness emergency. Vanity metrics fed to the people in this manner are misleading at best, in reality insulting to people who know the recovery is fragile and not omnipresent.