Monday, March 11, 2013

11/3/2013: Irish Services Sectors Activity in 2012

Data for 2012 end of the year index of activity in Irish Services sectors is out and before I cover monthly data for January 2013, here are some annual results:

  • Wholesale trade services activity expanded 4.03% in 2011-2012, after growing 14.2% in 2010-2011. In 2012 the sub-sector activity was up 31.6% on 2009 and up 18.8 on 2010 making this the fastest growing sub-sector in all Irish services since 2009.
  • Wholesale and retail trade, repairs of motor vehicles and motorcycles sub-sector activity grew 2.24% in 2012 compared to 2011 after having expanded 7.2% in 2010-2011. Over 2009-2012 the sub-sector activity grew incredible 14.6% all of which was driven solely by growth in wholesale trade, offset by shrinkages in retail and other sub-sector activities.
  • Transportation and storage sub-sector activity expanded 5.39% in 2011-2012 period, having grown at 3.8% in 2010-2011 period. Since 2009 through 2012 sub-sector activity shrunk by 1.88%.
  • Accommodation and food services activities expanded at 2.27% in 2011-2012, following growth of 1.4% in 2010-2011 period. Between 2009 and the end of 2012, sub-sector activity was down 6.74%. Accommodation sub-sector alone grew 2.18% in 2011-2012 after posting growth of 5.4% in 2010-2011 and the index is on the aggregate still down 3.67% on 2009. Bizarrely, Food services activities grew since 2009 through 2012 at 1.76%, and this sub-sector posted expansion of 6.80% in 2011-2012 that followed growth of 2.9% in 2010-2011 period.
  • Information and Communication sub-sector activity was the star of the show in 2011-2012, rising 8.40% on foot of 3.6% growth in 2010-2011. The sub-sector is now up 20.11% on 2009 making this the second fastest growing sub-sector in Irish services after Wholesale trade.
  • Professional, scientific & technical activities sub-sector activity was the worst performing sub-sector in 2011-2012, shrinking 10.39%. This followed growth of 1.1% in 2010-2011. The sub-sector activity is now down 23.80% on 2009 making it overall the worst performing sub-sector, even worse than the Services (68, 92 to 96) sub-sector described below.
  • Administrative and support services activity sub-sector clearly doesn't have much in common with the sub-sectors that usually require significant admin & support (e.g. professional, scientific and technical areas of activities) as it posted an robust growth rate of 7.54% in 2011-2012, albeit on foot of strong contraction of 7.2% in 2010-2011 period.The sub-sector activity is cumulatively up 2.67% on 2009. Either Irish exports are becoming more bureaucratised to warrant increases in Admin & supports, or there's some sort of substitution from shrinking public sector employment to temps and outsourced services. Otherwise, why on earth would an economy in a deep slowdown post growth in this category on 2009 figures?
  • Services (68, 92 to 96) encompassing Real Estate activities, Gambling and betting activities and Other personal service activities were down 3.48% in 2011-2012, following virtually zero (+0.7%) expansion in 2010-2011. The grouping is down 19.67% on 2009 levels of activity.

Overall, for all services covered in the CSO data, sector growth clocked at 2.52% in 2011-2012 period, down from 3.3% growth in 2010-2011. Not a good sign, but better than posting negative growth, I guess. Compared to 2009, sector activity is up miserly 3.52%. And that is despite increases in R&D spending, massive hikes in availability of state-financed VC and angel investment (via Enterprise Ireland), big-time focus on incentives (including tax incentives) in 'key' sectors etc. Not exactly an achievement to brag about, but, again, could have been worse.

Here's another interesting chart:

As I mentioned above, Professional, scientific & technical activities sub-sector activity was down 23.80% on 2009 making it overall the worst performing sub-sector in all services sectors covered. Which isn't going well with the claims we keep hearing about our 'knowledge economy' and 'smart economy' and the rest of the hoopla surrounding branding like 'Innovation Island'. Looks like stripping ICT, there is not much of 'knowledge'-intensive trading going on out there. And we take out IFSC, the whole landscape of 'knowledge-based economy' might just as well start resembling a veritable desert? Instead, the 'traditional' (aka not 'smart' according to our Government policies priorities) wholesale trade is driving the sector activity, plus the 'smart' ICT sector.

And one last point. Here's the Services PMI data for Ireland for the period covered above in the index (see latest data here: ...

Strange that a lift-off in PMI from ca 35 average in 2009 to 52 average in 2012 should be translating into only 3.5% increase in actual services activity, no? Sort of suggests something bizarre going on in PMI data, right? Hello, Markit!.. Station Earth paging...

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