New figures reveal fall in those claiming unemployment benefits in Belfast

Hundreds fewer people in Belfast were claiming unemployment benefits in September than the month before, recent figures have revealed.

Office for National Statistics data shows 12,260 people in the area were claiming out-of-work benefits as of September 9, which is down from 12,520 in August.

It means 5.5% of Belfast’s working-age population sought support during September – which is down from 5.6% the previous month.

And, the good news doesn’t end there, it was also 2,150 fewer than the number of claimants recorded in September last year.

The figures include those aged 16 to 64 on Jobseeker’s Allowance and some Universal Credit claimants, who are unemployed and seeking work or employed but with low earnings.

However the Office for National Statistics cautioned that changes to Universal Credit in response to the Covid-19 pandemic mean more people can get the benefits while still being employed, which could affect the figures slightly.

It also said a small number of people who can claim both Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit could be counted twice.

National figures, which are adjusted to account for seasonal changes, show the number of people seeking help across the UK fell by 80,000 month on month to 2.1 million in September.

The Office for National Statistics said the number of payrolled workers rose by 207,000 nationally between August and September to a record 29.2 million – higher than levels seen before the pandemic struck in February 2020.

Different Office for National Statistics figures show the rate of unemployment fell further to 4.5% between June and August, down from 4.6% in the quarter to July and the lowest level for a year.

Britain’s jobs market rebound has sparked speculation that the Bank of England may raise interest rates faster than expected, as it looks to cool soaring inflation, with fewer unemployment fears to hold it back.

While furlough came to a close at the end of last month, the data showed vacancies almost matching those left on the support scheme, raising hopes the UK will avoid any spike in unemployment.

Highlighting the effects of the pandemic and the need for the economy to recover, Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the Office for National Statistics, said: “The jobs market has continued to recover from the effects of the coronavirus, with the number of employees on payroll in September now well exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

“Vacancies also reached a new one-month record in September, at nearly 1.2 million, with our latest estimates suggesting that all industries have at least as many jobs on offer now as before the onset of Covid-19.”

But the ONS flagged the impact of the mounting recruitment crisis in the UK, with vacancies rising 318,000 above levels seen before Covid and recent analysis showing a raft of sectors struggling to fill posts.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, explained: “As we move to the next stage of our support, it’s encouraging to see our Plan for Jobs working – the number of expected redundancies remained very low in September, there are more employees on payrolls than ever before and the unemployment rate has fallen for eight months in a row.”

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