Northern Ireland unemployment might have hit an historic, but economic inactivity suggests the topline figures flatter to deceive as economist has suggested.
Responding to the latest Labour Market Statistics for the first quarter of 2019 a fall of almost to 2.9%, - against a UK rate of 3.8% - Ulster Bank chief economist for Northern Ireland, Richard Ramsey, said the province was “not quite the labour market nirvana” the data suggests
Stating that the rate had hit “a jaw-dropping low,” he said Japan was one of the few world economies with a lower unemployment rate (2.5%) than Northern Ireland.
Other measures painted a different picture, however.
“As far as statistics go, Northern Ireland’s employment rate speaks much louder than the unemployment rate,” he said.
“While the employment rate hit a record high of 71.3% in Q1 2019, it remains the second lowest of all the UK regions.
“Northern Ireland continues to have the highest economic inactivity rate of any UK region at 26.5%.”
That, he said, translated into more that a quarter of the local, working-age, population were neither in work or looking for work.
“Notwithstanding the great strides Northern Ireland’s labour market has made over the last decade, particularly in relation to employment growth, significant challenges remain,” he said.
“Alongside tackling economic inactivity, productivity remains a longstanding weakness within the economy.
“In terms of the latter, Northern Ireland continues to lag well behind the UK, which in turn lags behind its key international competitors.
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, said the statistics were encouraging, adding: “we should be far from complacent”.
“Our levels of economic inactivity remain stubbornly high and while our employment rate is increasing, we still have room for improvement.
“To achieve a step change in our local economy, a radical reboot of economic policy is needed”
“Reforming business rates, investing in infrastructure and skills and training are vital for any incoming Stormont Executive”