The BBC news website has an interesting interactive web application which allows users to quickly view which EU countries owe money to each other and to countries outside Europe. It provides a quick glance at the extent of the Irish debt crisis and the countries to which we owe money. The application is available here.
The latest figures from EuroStat indicate that the volume of retail trade has fallen in the Eurozone by 1.1% in May 2011. This is despite showing signs of recovery in April. This can be observed in Figure 1. The EU27 also suffered a drop of 1.1% in May.
When we compare Ireland’s performance with that of the Europe in Figure 2 we can see that Ireland’s fluctuations are far more severe than our European counterparts. While Ireland saw a drop of over 2.5% in retail sales in Dec 2010, Europe saw a fall of only about 0.2%. When Ireland rebounded strongly in Jan 2011 with 2.1% growth, Europe only experienced 0.2% growth.
These extreme fluctuations, coupled with an unpredictable positive/negative trend make it hard to judge whether Ireland’s retail sales have bottomed out. April and May of 2011 both show drops in retail sales. Overall, this is not a positive sign for retailers, who have continued to see declining sales.
Euro level unemployment is at a rate of 9.9% in March 2011. This is down from 10.1% in March of 2011. Comparably, the EU-27 unemployment rate has fallen from 9.7% to 9.5% over the same time period. This decline in unemployment figures, however small, is a positive event. As shown in Figure 1 the downward pattern has been prevalent since September of last year.
Comparing Ireland to some of our neighbours we are faring particularly poorly when it comes to unemployment figures. This is highlighted by Figure 2 which presents Ireland and a number of our European counterparts for whom data is available for March 2011. We can see that with the exception of Spain (ES) Ireland possesses one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. As Ireland was coming from one of the lowest levels of unemployment in Europe in 2007, this highlights Ireland’s dramatic fall.
Justin Doran is a Lecturer in Economics, in the Department of Economics, University College Cork, Ireland.