UNEMPLOYMENT in the province rose slightly over the last three moths of 2012 though it remained steady in January over the previous month figures showed yesterday.
The latest data comes as the UK as a whole showed a fall in the number of people out of worik and there was a warning that the figure could rise higher here during 2013.
UK unemployment fell in the three months to 2.5 million, while the Northern Ireland figure rose 0.2 per cent to 65,000.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster noted that the number of people on the claimant count in January remained constant for the first time in over a year.
“The rate of unemployment in Northern Ireland (7.8%) was equal to that in the UK (7.8%), and still compares favourably to the rates in the European Union (10.7%) and the Republic of Ireland (14.6%),” she said.
“Although an increase in jobs and output suggests a degree of stabilisation, it is only to be tentatively welcomed as it is still too early to draw conclusions. The UK reported a fall in quarterly GDP at the end of 2012 after growth in the third quarter, suggesting that the timing of any recovery remains difficult to predict.
“Nevertheless, there are areas of growth in the world economy and our continuing priority must be to help Northern Ireland businesses identify and target such demand, wherever it exists. Support for business will continue to be available through the wide range of Invest Northern Ireland initiatives that are tailored to meet individual business needs.
“I would actively encourage businesses to explore all potential market expansion options and utilise the funding support that is available such as the NI Small Business Loan Fund which aims to boost business confidence and help SMEs by ensuring that companies are not held back because they cannot access finance.”
Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said there was no reason to expect unemployment to dramatically improve until reasonable levels of economic growth get underway.
“What is most worrying about the recent labour market data is of course the long-term unemployment rate - which is now sitting at nearly 60 percent,” she said.
“This problem needs significant attention and should be the number one priority for the Executive over the short to medium term.
“Without adequate investment in the up-skilling and re-skilling of the long-term unemployed, Northern Ireland’s future labour force will be stunted. It is imperative therefore that we invest in re-training the long-term unemployed so that we can meet the future economic needs.”
Contrasting today’s figures with the announcement of 550 jobs in the Irish Republic, employers’ body the CBI said it showed the importance of “winning the corporation tax argument and winning it quickly”.
“Ebay are creating a further 450 jobs in Dundalk, bringing its total workforce in Ireland to 2,300, and Facebook are creating 100 new jobs, bringing its total staff in the Republic to 500,” said CBI Northern Ireland chairman Ian Coulter.
“There is no doubt that the announcements in the Republic are inextricably linked to their lower rate of corporation tax. In addition, every job that is created by a multinational company there also creates another extra job in its domestic economy – in supply companies, retail and other services.
“Northern Ireland needs the same tool to attract multi-nationals in such numbers and help transform our economy.”