The Midwest will rise again…

Listening to the various commentators about the state of the Midwest’s economy it is hard to get an accurate picture of the overall health of the region. What would an economic recovery in Limerick look like? Is it already happening? If it is happening, when will it be complete? When will Limerick be back to pre-recession levels? And just how bad did it get?

One crude measurement of how the economy of Limerick is progressing is by comparing the levels of unemployment in Limerick from pre and post recession. The CSO publish figures for the numbers of unemployed people in Limerick city, Limerick county, Kilmallock and Newcastle West from March 2002 to date. They give some indication of the health of Limerick’s economy over the past 15 years. I have included the full table below but it’s worth looking at four months in particular to get an overall picture of the the last 15 years.

In March 2002 there was 15,352 people unemployed in Limerick city and county. This figure dropped down to 13,506 in November 2005. November 2005 represents the best month Limerick had in terms of unemployment figures in the last 14 years. There is an theory that every economy has a natural rate of unemployment, that is a figure combining both structural and frictional unemployment which would be expected to hold steady in a long term economy outside of cyclical influences. For Limerick that figure would appear to be somewhere between 13,500 and 15,000 people considering the overall health of the National economy at that time. With this figure in mind, just how bad did things get in the recession?

By August 2010 the number of people signing on as unemployed had reached a staggering 46,830. It is worth reflecting on the number. It is over three times as high as unemployment was in in the stable years from 2002 to 2006. It represents the collapse of Ireland’s economic sovereignty (as played out county by county), it represents the return of mass emigration after 20 years of inward migration but more than that it represents on a human scale the level of damage that Limerick suffered in a extraordinarily short period of time. Every one of those figures is an individual who had to defer their plans and was unable to live the life they wanted to. Collectively it is the stark figure of families separated by unemployment, of the struggles the Midwest endured along with the rest of the country. It is a number that still echoes throughout the region. 46,830 represents 24.24% of the entire population of the county. It is a tragic figure and it is one we should remember when we speak about the reality of unemployment in Limerick.

It is important to though to acknowledge that from that nadir things have improved. The most recent figure for people signing on is from November 2016 and is 22,288. It is a huge credit to the people of the city and the county collectively the economy of the region has recovered. There is a prevailing sense that any recovery is exaggerated or not being felt outside Dublin and the east coast but these figures do indicate there has been a substantial reduction in the number of the people registered as unemployed.

At 22,288 people the unemployment rate is still at a high figure, certainly too high a figure to forget how much hard work still lies ahead but it is important to acknowledge how much has been achieved. The below graph demonstrates the massive economic shock Limerick suffered in from July 2007 to August 2010, combined with the period of stability beforehand and the relative recovery that has occurred since.

201716184073154909lrm07_1841583

It is worth comparing the above graph with a graph which represents the entire country.

201717044463157171lrm07_0445133

It is interesting to post these figures because, as mentioned, there is a perception that Limerick’s recovery still lags behind Dublin and the east coast. It is quite clear that there has been a substantial recovery in terms of figures. It is also quite clear that Limerick is somewhat in sync with the rest of the country.

In order to be sure that these figures don’t represent emigration it is worth noting that the population of Limerick has actually increased over the last 5 years, from 191,809 in 2011 to 195,175 in 2016. While this is a very modest increase for the county the size of Limerick it is encouraging that the number didn’t stay static or decline. As the population is increasing and the unemployment rate is improving it is clear that the economy is recovering somewhat.

Limerick Number
Population 2011 (Number) 191,809
Population 2016 (Number) 195,175
Actual change since previous census (Number) 3,366
Percentage change since previous census (%) 1.8
Limerick City
Population 2011 (Number) 57,106
Population 2016 (Number) 58,319
Actual change since previous census (Number) 1,213
Percentage change since previous census (%) 2.1
Limerick County
Population 2011 (Number) 134,703
Population 2016 (Number) 136,856
Actual change since previous census (Number) 2,153
Percentage change since previous census (%) 1.6

Of course, these figures are blunt instruments. They do not reveal how many people returned into education, are on work placement schemes or are not receiving assistance. Crucially these figures do not tell us who is actually working. We know from a recent Central Bank study that the Participation Rate in the Irish Labour Force has not yet recovered to it’s pre-crash levels. It currently stands at 60% as opposed to a pre-crash high of 64%. These figures also do not reveal that nature of the work, if the work is permanent or contract. At best they give another indication that Limerick is on the right path. Taken with other figures such as the 14% house price rise in Limerick in 2016 and the increase in FDI jobs in the Midwest it is clear that a recovery of sorts has taken hold in Limerick.

The city and county are still some distance from the heyday of November 2005 but it is important that we acknowledge that things are getting better if only to discuss what happens next and how we can use this recovery to ensure everyone benefits from the improvements as they come. We need to ensure that workers aren’t being exploited by instruments like zero hour contracts or unfair work practices. It is important that we do take the time to acknowledge that even if we haven’t recovered to pre-crash levels that at least we are in the midst of a recovery. These figures remind of us where we have come from, and how much we still have to improve on. 46,830 in August 2010 to 22,288 in November 2016 is a significant change, even if the numbers do not tell us the full story.

 

 

 

 

Figures for the numbers of unemployed in Limerick month on month from March 2002 to November 2016.

Social Welfare Office    2002M01 2002M02 2002M03    2002M04    2002M05    2002M06    2002M07    2002M08    2002M09    2002M10    2002M11    2002M12   
Limerick County 7676 7382 7423 8054 8583 8593 7927 7784 7714 8281
Kilmallock 874 771 808 867 910 897 781 789 806 905
Limerick City 5878 5738 5780 6325 6742 6769 6281 6157 6088 6526
Newcastle West 924 873 835 862 931 927 865 838 820 850
2003M01    2003M02    2003M03    2003M04    2003M05    2003M06    2003M07    2003M08    2003M09    2003M10    2003M11    2003M12   
Limerick County 8540 8760 8572 8664 8097 8786 9262 9273 8263 7854 7697 8123
Kilmallock 948 961 946 936 895 933 1017 1042 903 870 861 956
Limerick City 6709 6879 6720 6812 6310 6902 7217 7221 6508 6157 5987 6280
Newcastle West 883 920 906 916 892 951 1028 1010 852 827 849 887
2004M01    2004M02    2004M03    2004M04    2004M05    2004M06    2004M07    2004M08    2004M09    2004M10    2004M11    2004M12   
Limerick County 8166 8271 8154 7800 7615 8269 8674 8676 7772 7219 6938 7245
Kilmallock 962 928 880 854 811 859 939 947 841 821 788 827
Limerick City 6264 6394 6322 6052 5941 6502 6776 6773 6063 5522 5308 5538
Newcastle West 940 949 952 894 863 908 959 956 868 876 842 880
2005M01    2005M02    2005M03    2005M04    2005M05    2005M06    2005M07    2005M08    2005M09    2005M10    2005M11    2005M12   
Limerick County 7273 7241 7195 6834 6830 7488 7977 8019 7152 6823 6753 7106
Kilmallock 838 818 765 723 710 763 818 813 762 719 757 815
Limerick City 5516 5475 5479 5188 5212 5781 6146 6163 5479 5203 5113 5356
Newcastle West 919 948 951 923 908 944 1013 1043 911 901 883 935
2006M01    2006M02    2006M03    2006M04    2006M05    2006M06    2006M07    2006M08    2006M09    2006M10    2006M11    2006M12   
Limerick County 7170 7204 6983 6863 6982 7810 8182 8253 7205 6888 6889 7314
Kilmallock 782 811 777 773 773 849 917 920 798 811 819 881
Limerick City 5426 5431 5293 5189 5337 6025 6257 6327 5530 5205 5088 5382
Newcastle West 962 962 913 901 872 936 1008 1006 877 872 982 1051
2007M01    2007M02    2007M03    2007M04    2007M05    2007M06    2007M07    2007M08    2007M09    2007M10    2007M11    2007M12   
Limerick County 7278 7375 7252 7227 7243 7967 8421 8362 7395 7286 7630 8236
Kilmallock 871 871 821 855 828 884 928 937 822 814 872 976
Limerick City 5347 5434 5362 5338 5400 6020 6349 6282 5526 5468 5704 6123
Newcastle West 1060 1070 1069 1034 1015 1063 1144 1143 1047 1004 1054 1137
2008M01    2008M02    2008M03    2008M04    2008M05    2008M06    2008M07    2008M08    2008M09    2008M10    2008M11    2008M12   
Limerick County 8545 9004 9583 9373 9911 10710 11448 12048 11457 11836 12864 13999
Kilmallock 988 994 1082 1024 1094 1219 1286 1300 1305 1415 1526 1722
Limerick City 6255 6630 7101 6926 7350 7928 8530 8970 8431 8616 9295 10044
Newcastle West 1302 1380 1400 1423 1467 1563 1632 1778 1721 1805 2043 2233
2009M01    2009M02    2009M03    2009M04    2009M05    2009M06    2009M07    2009M08    2009M09    2009M10    2009M11    2009M12   
Limerick County 15743 17176 17981 18456 19732 20922 21695 22086 21055 20326 20700 21375
Kilmallock 1944 2123 2245 2289 2324 2476 2596 2667 2523 2577 2628 2762
Limerick City 11228 12188 12646 13155 14080 14973 15557 15817 15091 14403 14715 15092
Newcastle West 2571 2865 3090 3012 3328 3473 3542 3602 3441 3346 3357 3521
2010M01    2010M02    2010M03    2010M04    2010M05    2010M06    2010M07    2010M08    2010M09    2010M10    2010M11    2010M12   
Limerick County 22010 21995 21703 21663 21794 22275 23148 23415 22236 21459 20580 20970
Kilmallock 2807 2832 2826 2793 2791 2840 2919 2898 2724 2653 2591 2707
Limerick City 15617 15574 15282 15324 15475 15819 16490 16778 16023 15332 14638 14779
Newcastle West 3586 3589 3595 3546 3528 3616 3739 3739 3489 3474 3351 3484
2011M01    2011M02    2011M03    2011M04    2011M05    2011M06    2011M07    2011M08    2011M09    2011M10    2011M11    2011M12   
Limerick County 21116 21038 20729 20700 20928 21728 22397 22611 21160 20534 20228 20339
Kilmallock 2724 2756 2697 2692 2686 2759 2884 2837 2679 2621 2571 2650
Limerick City 14857 14787 14589 14543 14801 15537 15946 16210 15159 14630 14350 14313
Newcastle West 3535 3495 3443 3465 3441 3432 3567 3564 3322 3283 3307 3376
2012M01    2012M02    2012M03    2012M04    2012M05    2012M06    2012M07    2012M08    2012M09    2012M10    2012M11    2012M12   
Limerick County 20396 20332 20034 19876 20131 20810 21333 21265 20178 19571 19038 19228
Kilmallock 2655 2658 2651 2609 2625 2726 2753 2725 2561 2536 2486 2563
Limerick City 14336 14296 14071 13972 14084 14752 15194 15162 14460 13926 13443 13504
Newcastle West 3405 3378 3312 3295 3422 3332 3386 3378 3157 3109 3109 3161
2013M01    2013M02    2013M03    2013M04    2013M05    2013M06    2013M07    2013M08    2013M09    2013M10    2013M11    2013M12   
Limerick County 19304 19239 19037 18754 18688 19151 19615 19573 18501 17691 17216 17539
Kilmallock 2549 2529 2565 2503 2522 2614 2577 2496 2365 2272 2243 2283
Limerick City 13577 13527 13322 13154 13104 13434 13872 14008 13334 12600 12214 12402
Newcastle West 3178 3183 3150 3097 3062 3103 3166 3069 2802 2819 2759 2854
2014M01    2014M02    2014M03    2014M04    2014M05    2014M06    2014M07    2014M08    2014M09    2014M10    2014M11    2014M12   
Limerick County 17511 17430 17061 16955 16724 17240 17801 17579 16310 15474 15146 15358
Kilmallock 2292 2268 2204 2204 2165 2200 2204 2146 1977 1912 1890 1902
Limerick City 12415 12357 12144 12094 12006 12427 12965 12812 11966 11276 10963 11119
Newcastle West 2804 2805 2713 2657 2553 2613 2632 2621 2367 2286 2293 2337
2015M01    2015M02    2015M03    2015M04    2015M05    2015M06    2015M07    2015M08    2015M09    2015M10    2015M11    2015M12   
Limerick County 15025 14763 14409 14160 14267 15043 15662 15444 14344 13620 13339 13600
Kilmallock 1893 1873 1834 1789 1778 1832 1878 1883 1719 1698 1666 1719
Limerick City 10841 10665 10412 10206 10317 11019 11537 11357 10665 10022 9787 9957
Newcastle West 2291 2225 2163 2165 2172 2192 2247 2204 1960 1900 1886 1924
2016M01    2016M02    2016M03    2016M04    2016M05    2016M06    2016M07    2016M08    2016M09    2016M10    2016M11   
Limerick County 13437 13270 13046 12724 12831 13528 13774 13795 12126 11473 11144
Kilmallock 1702 1671 1652 1569 1566 1629 1618 1664 1464 1372 1339
Limerick City 9831 9710 9494 9387 9455 10043 10271 10262 9056 8558 8297
Newcastle West 1904 1889 1900 1768 1810 1856 1885 1869 1606 1543 1508
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