Workers' salaries rise to £27,006 - but spending power is lowest in UK
FULL-time workers in Northern Ireland enjoyed a 4.1 per cent pay rise last year to an average £27,006, new government figures show.
Weekly earnings in the year to April were £521, up from from £500 in 2017, and was the largest increase recorded since 2015, according to the NI Statistics & Research Agency.
But the Northern Ireland wage is just 91 per cent of the UK rate of £29,574 - and in real terms earnings here are still below 2009 levels (£527 a week).
The increase in weekly earnings over the year was driven by increases in the private sector, where weekly earnings rose by 4.5 per cent.
Public sector weekly earnings decreased by 0.3 per cent, where the wage, at £465, was 25 per cent lower than in the public sector (£621).
Northern Ireland also remains only region in UK where full-time females earn more than males (average per hour is £12.94 for women versus £12.50 for men).
The report says the gender pay gap in the north is driven by a larger proportion of full-time females than males working in higher paid occupations, and in the public sector.
One per cent of employees in Northern Ireland earned below the National Minimum Wage (£7.83), while more than a quarter of workers (28 per cent) earned below the so-called Real Living Wage of £8.75, set by the Living Wage Foundation.
Total weekly hours worked by full-time employees in the north increased by 0.2 hours over the year to 38.3 hours.
Despite the rise in wages, however, Northern Ireland has still endured a significant drop in family spending power, according to a separate report from supermarket Asda.
Its quarterly Income Tracker showed that the region remains at the bottom of the UK league table with a discretionary weekly income of £106 (this figure reflects the amount of money left over after taxes are subtracted and essential items paid such as groceries, electricity, gas, transport and mortgage/rent).
Kay Neufeld, managing economist at Cebr, said: “Households in Northern Ireland have enjoyed above-average increases in discretionary incomes for the first half of the year, providing a much needed boost to their spending power.
"But the latest Asda Income Tracker data shows that this period of impressive growth has come to an end in the third quarter with the growth falling back to 2.8 per cent, below the national average.
"This will make it harder for households in Northern Ireland to close the gap with the north east of England, which ranks top in the UK for family spending power growth in this data and has an average household discretionary income £34 a week higher at £140."
She added: “Unemployment has risen sharply over the past months, albeit from a low base, weighing on families’ income growth. At the same time, increases in global oil prices put pressure on families’ budgets, which is particularly felt across car-reliant Northern Ireland.”