NI records fastest growth in spending power

Pictured at the Asda Income Tracker Roundtable event, which celebrated 10 years of the report are (L-R) George Rankin, Senior Director NI, Asda and James McCluggage, Policy & Technical Manager, UFU
Pictured at the Asda Income Tracker Roundtable event, which celebrated 10 years of the report are (L-R) George Rankin, Senior Director NI, Asda and James McCluggage, Policy & Technical Manager, UFU

New figures released by Asda on the 10th anniversary of its Income Tracker report, which is compiled by CEBR, show Northern Ireland has taken a positive step towards narrowing the discretionary household income gap with the rest of the UK, with a 5.5% increase in family spending power in Q4 – up from 4.4% in Q3.

With NI unemployment in the fourth quarter falling below the national average to 3.5%, after an increase over the summer months to over 4%, Northern Ireland has reclaimed its spot at the top of the regional league table for quarterly discretionary income growth.

The upsurge in family spending power is reflected across the UK with a national increase of 4.7% for Q4, which equates to a £207 per week in discretionary income – the strongest annual growth since August 2016.

However, with an average of £109 per week left over after paying for essential goods and services, NI remains the worst off of all regions in pound terms – with £97 less than the average UK household.

Northern Ireland is also the only part of the UK that has not seen an acceleration in gross income growth between the fourth quarters in 2017 and 2018.

However, with gains of 3.2% in the latest quarter Northern Ireland’s recent income growth stands above that of London and just slightly below the national average in Q4 2018.

In recognition of the significant anniversary of the report, Asda hosted a business briefing at Riddel Hall to reflect on the past decade and look to what 2019 will hold for local families’ spending power.

Speaking at the event, Kay Neufeld, Managing Economist, CEBR, said: “After a lost year in 2017, households across the UK have seen healthy gains in the Asda Income Tracker in 2018. The positive developments in the labour market have translated into sustained wage growth of over 3% and with inflation falling back, households are left with more money in their pocket.

“The improvements have been particularly felt in Northern Ireland, where in the fourth quarter of 2018 family spending power increased by more than in any other country or region in the UK.”

George Rankin, Senior Director NI, Asda, added:“Ten years of Income Tracker has presented a real and very meaningful insight into the evolution of a Northern Ireland family’s spending power. There have been ups and downs over the last decade, with the region continuing to face challenges – and as a retailer, we know how this impacts on family life.

“It’s great to see that the available weekly income is finally on the up and the gap between NI and other UK regions is narrowing.

“There may be uncertainties ahead, but Income Tracker clearly indicates that we’re making progress.”