Jobless totals fall for seventh consecutive month

Jobless figures are down but the economy still trails the rest of the UK
Jobless figures are down but the economy still trails the rest of the UK

Unemployment in the province fell for the seventh month in a row as figures for October show those claiming benefits fell by 700 to 34,000.

At the same time the data shows that while the figure is still higher at 5.6% against a Uk average (4.8%), the level of those dubbed economically inactive also fell.

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has welcomed the latest labour market figures which show a further decrease in the unemployment rate and the number of people claiming unemployment benefits.

“This is positive news for our economy,” said Mr Hamilton.

“Our unemployment rate is now the lowest it has been since October - December 2008.

The rate is also well below the European Union rate for August and the Republic of Ireland rate for September.

“I also welcome the increase in the employment rate to 69.9%, up over the year by 2.1 percentage points to July - September 2016.

“This is the highest rate recorded since the quarterly series began in 1995. We have also witnessed the lowest economic inactivity rate in these latest statistics since the series began, at a rate of 25.8% and down 1.9 percentage points over the year.”

With the economy continuing to strengthen and perform well, he said he was committed to building on that progress “to achieve the overall aim of creating a globally competitive economy which benefits all our population.”

The figures were welcomed bsiness organisation the FSB.

Policy chair for Northern Ireland Wilfred Mitchell said: “It is particularly welcome that the fall in unemployment was accompanied by an both an increase in employment rates and a decrease in economic inactivity rates over the year.

“This suggests some growth in the overall economy.

However, Dr David Armstrong, a partner with business advisors PwC ,said it expected Northern Ireland growth to slow again next year, from a forecast of 1.4% for 2016, to around 0.6% in 2017 – the lowest level of growth amongst the 12 UK regions.

“Despite the welcome news on falling unemployment and new employment being created, productivity remains well below the pre-recession level and continues to lag the rest of the UK,” he said.