Tuesday, July 31, 2018

30/7/18: Ireland's employment data: Official Stats vs Full Time equivalents



Based on the most current data for Irish employment and working hours, I have calculated the difference between the two key time series, the Full Time Equivalent employment (FTE employment) and the officially reported employment.

Let’s take some definitions on board first:
  • Defining those in official employment: I used CSO data for “Persons aged 15 years and over in Employment (Thousand) by Quarter, Sex, and Usual Hours Worked”
  • Defining FTE employment, is used data on hours per week worked, using 40-44 hours category as the defining point for FTE. 
  • A note of caution, FTE is an estimated figures, based on mid-points of working time intervals reported by the CSO.


Based on these definitions, in 1Q 2018, there were 2.2205 million people in official employment in Ireland. However, 51,800 of these worked on average between 1 and 9 hours per week, and another 147,300 worked between 10 and 19 hours per week. And so on. Adjusting for working hours differences, my estimated Full Time Equivalent number of employees in Ireland in 1Q 2018 stood at 1.94223 million, or 278,271 FTE employees less than the official employment statistics suggested. The gap between the FTE employment and officially reported number of employees was 12.53%.

I defined the above gap as “Employment Hours Gap” (EHG): a percentage difference between those in FTE and those in official employment. A negative gap close to zero implies FTE employment is close to the official employment, which indicates that only a small proportion of those in employment are working less then full-time hours.

All the data is plotted in the chart below


Per chart above, the following facts are worth noting:
  1. In terms of official employment numbers, Ireland’s economy has not fully recovered from the crisis. The pre-Crisis peak official employment stands at 2.2522 million in 3Q 2007. The bad news is: as of 1Q 2018, the same measure stands at 2.2205 million.
  2. In terms of FTE employment, the peak pre-Crisis levels of employment stood at 1.9261 million in 3Q 2017. This was regained in 3Q 2017 at 1.9444 million. So the good news is that the current recovery is at least complete now, after a full decade of misery, when it comes to estimated FTE employment.


The improved quality of employment as reflected in better mix of FT and  >FT employees in the total numbers employed, generated in the recent recovery, is highlighted in the chart as well, as the gap has been drawing closer to zero.

One more thing worth noting here. The above data is based on inclusion of the category of employees with “Variable Hours”, which per CSO include “persons for whom no usual hours of work are available”. In other words, zero-hours contract workers who effective do not work at all are included with those workers who might work one week 45 hours and another week 25 hours. So I adjust my FTE estimated employment to exclude from both official and FTE employment figures workers on Variable Hours. The resulting change in the EHG gap is striking:



Per above, while the recovery has been associated with a modestly improving working hours conditions, it is now clear that excluding workers on Variable Hours’ put the current level of EHG still below the conditions prevailing in the early 2000s. More interestingly, we can see a persistent trend in terms of rising / worsening gap from the end of the 1990s through to the end of the pre-Crisis boom at the end of 2007, and into the collapse of the Irish economy through 2012. The post-Crisis improvement in Employment Hours Gap has been driven by the outflows of workers from the Variable Hours’ to other categories, but when one controls for this category of workers (a category that is effectively ‘catch-all-others’ for CSO) the improvements become less dramatic.

Overall, FTE estimates indicate some problems remaining in the Irish economy when it comes to the dependency ratios. Many analysts gauge dependency ratios as a function of total population ratio to those in official employment. The problem, of course, is that the economic capacity of someone working close to 40 hours per week or above is not the same as that of someone working less than 20 hours per week.

Note: More on dependency ratios next. 
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