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No sign of any silver lining as storm clouds are over Ireland

IT seemed like a good idea at the time. But they may now sometimes wonder at the Central Statistics Office if publishing economic data every three months is really all that helpful.

The small Irish economy bounces around so much from one quarter to the next that much of the resulting talk about growth and recession is wide of the mark.

Purchases of aircraft by airlines and leasing companies, for instance, can make a big difference to the national-economy numbers -- and did just that from July to September.

But the 2pc drop in economic output and income in the third quarter of the year may be more than just usual volatility. It was a big fall -- the largest since the beginning of 2009.

It was also accompanied by a 20,000 drop in employment and signs of weakening tax revenues, which were reinforced in October and November.

We can hardly be too surprised. The euro crisis, which appears to be no better after the latest EU summit, is adding fear to the loss of income of Irish consumers.

Ignoring aircraft purchases, the 1.3pc drop in personal spending was the biggest drag on the economy during the quarter.

That left consumer spending almost €1bn less than in the same period last year.

A tough, controversial Budget and the continued sense of uncertainty suggest that less will be spent in the shops again next year.

The small increase in exports was the second weakest quarterly performance since the beginning of last year.

Essentially, the economy has been static since hitting bottom at the end of 2009, with rising exports offsetting falling spending and investment.

A static economy means falling, not steady, employment.

Just maintaining jobs requires growth and buoyant growth is needed to create new jobs.

There seems little chance of either happening in 2012, as the euro area stumbles towards recession -- or worse.

Irish Independent