NORTHERN Ireland is enjoying sustained economic improvement, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said yesterday as data showed that unemployment rose from August to October.
Although the figure for the month of November showed a fall of 700 in the number of unemployment claimants, the Labour Force Survey indicated a 0.6 per cent for the three months from August, taking the local total to 7.5 per cent.
The total number of jobs in Northern Ireland was estimated at 703,020 for September, representing an increase of 3,290 (0.5 per cent) over the quarter, and an increase of 8,620 (1.2 per cent) over the year. This is now the seventh consecutive quarterly increase in employee jobs.
Pointing to a fall of 4,700 in the claimant figures over the last 10 months, Mrs Foster said: “Although the increase in the unemployment rate is disappointing, it is encouraging that the number of unemployment benefit claimants continues to fall.
“In addition, there are positive signs in terms of employee jobs with seven consecutive quarterly increases.”
“The increase in the unemployment rate indicates that the path to full recovery in the Northern Ireland labour market can be uneven at times.
“However, the more recent fall in unemployment benefit recipients, along with the increase in employee jobs, demonstrates that there is some sustained improvement in the labour market which is to be welcomed.
“I also note that the Ulster Bank’s Purchasing Managers’ Index recorded a fifth consecutive monthly increase in business activity during November, with the steepest rate of expansion since March 2004.”
In the face of continued challenges, Mrs Foster said it was important that local businesses look for export opportunities in the wider global economy.
“The recent Investment Conference, Invest Northern Ireland Trade Mission, and representation at global events such as the Dubai Airshow and Seafex show that there is still significant demand for our products and skills that can help create the jobs we need to drive expansion at home.
“New foreign investment and export opportunities, along with continued support from Invest Northern Ireland, will undoubtedly provide quality opportunities for local businesses and people, contributing to the growth of our local economy.”