Employment figures solid but inactivity remains key issue

Unemployment continues to fall but economic inactivity is the bigger threat to future prosperity
Unemployment continues to fall but economic inactivity is the bigger threat to future prosperity

Unemployment in Northern Ireland fell over the past quarter according to the latest figures from the labour Force Survey.

Produced by the NI statistics agency NISRA the data indicates that the latest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for September to November past was 3.4%.

The rate fell 1% over the quarter and 0.4% over the year.

The survey described the shift from mid-2017 as reflceting real change in the labout market.

Unemployment remains below the UK average of 4% and is the fourth lowest rate of the regions. It also remains lower than the Republic of Ireland (5.3%) and the European Union (6.7%) rates for October 2018.

However, half (50.3%) of those unemployed here were unemployed for one year or more, more than double the UK average of 24.9%.

The survey also reveals that the employment rate and inactivity rate increased over the quarter; the employment rate reaching 69.6% and the economic inactivity rate rising 0.4% over the quarter to 27.9%.

The number of confirmed redundancies (2,498) in the most recent 12 months is 40% higher than in the previous 12 months.

Commenting on the figures, FSB NI policy chair, Tina McKenzie said serious issues needed to be addressed.

“While the decrease in unemployment this quarter to an extremely low 3.4% is encouraging, we must keep in mind that “Our stubbornly high levels of economic inactivity, which includes those not in work or seeking employment, continues to have a wider societal and economic impact.

“When we look at the UK labour market as a whole, we see that economic inactivity is at historically low levels, showing Northern Ireland as an outlier in this regard.”

While there were a variety of historical and social reasons for people to be economically inactive, Ms McKenzie said it was crucial to contimnue to tackle the issue head on.

“From a business perspective, if future migration policy is going to restrict access to labour, then it is vital that we remove barriers to entry for those currently not engaged with the labour market.”