FAMILIES in Northern Ireland have endured a £20-a-week collapse in their spending power, with just £127 disposable income left each week once taxes and items like mortgage/rent, utilities and general household bills have been paid.
That's down 13.3 per cent on this time a year ago, and is a full £108 below the UK average of £235.
The figures, revealed in Asda’s latest Income Tracker report compiled by Cebr for the first quarter of this year, also show that Northern Ireland has suffered the largest contraction in spending power of any region across the UK.
However, the figure of £127 a week still stands up well when compared to similar quarters over the last decade, when discretionary weekly spend was often below £100 (and as low as £82).
The data is seen as reflecting the wider labour market composition, with Northern Ireland having a larger share of public sector workers, who have seen lagging wage growth in recent months.
The withdrawal of the Universal Credit uplift last October has been a further factor, given the north’s high level of claimants.
When it comes to comparing spending power, the north east of England is the closest region to Northern Ireland at £152 a week, contrasting sharply with Wales at £198 and Scotland at £236, while families living in London have £298 a week at their disposal.
On a UK-wide level, the drop in discretionary spending power has been most dramatically felt by the lowest income families, who had 74 per cent less disposable income this March compared to a year ago, driven by commodity market pressures, rising inflation and spiralling utility costs.
Sam Miley, senior economist at Cebr, said: “The latest Income Tracker highlights the financial strain being placed on households amidst this ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
“While spending power is down almost across the board, Northern Ireland has been particularly impacted, and these trends are set to continue in the coming months, meaning households could find themselves in an even more precarious position.”
The latest data comes as Asda confirmed a series of measures to support households, including dropping and locking the prices of more than 100 family staples until the end of 2022. The retailer is also supporting its own 120,000 shop floor staff by increasing its hourly pay rate to £10.10 from July.