Employment is claimed to have reached an all time high in the province as figures released for February to April show ecomonic inactivity at a record low.
The unemployment rate reported in the Northern Ireland Labour Force Survey was 5.8% - a decrease of 0.2 percentage points over the quarter and 0.4 percentage points over the year.
Figures for May 2016 show the number of claimants in receipt of unemployment related benefits stood at 37,200, a decrease of 600 over the month.
“I warmly welcome this positive news showing a further fall in unemployment in Northern Ireland, a record rate of employment and an historic low level in economic activity,” said Economy Minister Simon Hamilton.
“One of my key objectives as Economy Minister is to ensure continued growth of employment and the reduction of economic inactivity. While employment contributes to wealth and value added in the economy, on an individual level secure employment provides people with financial stability as well as wider benefits, including better health and greater social stability.”
It was vital, he added, that the rising number of people in employment was reflected by the number of “good jobs”.
“The figures published contain positive messages across a range of key labour market indicators. In particular, following reductions in unemployment over the medium term I welcome the record employment rate and the historic low in the economic inactivity rates. In addition, the number of employee jobs continues to increase overall, including growth across the manufacturing, construction and services sectors and has now returned to pre-downturn levels.
Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said the labour market was holding up “reasonably well”.
“Employment levels are also continuing to show slow, but nonetheless steady progress. With 69.6 per cent of working-age people in employment, Northern Ireland is working to close the employment level gap that has prevailed for too long between this region and the UK (where employment levels currently average 74.2 per cent). Having a job is one of the most important aspects to an individual’s well-being so increasing the employment base will be a key component of the forthcoming Programme for Government.”
Dr Esmond Birnie, PwC chief economist warned that output had yet to show a similar recovery.
“The jobs growth is impressive, but it is not being matched by increased wealth creation,” he said.
“Whilst total employment is back to the 2008 level, total output in the local economy remains about 7% down on the previous peak, suggesting that there has been a major reduction in productivity; output per person.
“This is in contrast to the rest of the UK, where GDP has grown and productivity levels have remained roughly static.
“Whilst, NISRA’s figures show a continued improvement in terms of increasing Northern Ireland’s employment rate and decreasing economic inactivity, the failure to improve productivity levels remains a critical weakness.”