Ten years since the property crash and banking crisis saw unemployment in the province hit over 8.2%, latest figures suggest that Northern Ireland is close to ‘full employment’.
Labour market statistics from the Department for the Economy show the unemployment rate was 3.5% in the three months between December and February 2018 - a fall of almost 2% against the same period last year.
Ulster Bank chief economist, Northern Ireland, Richard Ramsey said the news was encouraging, especially for women.
“Unemployment is also down relative to the previous quarter (3.8%) but is above the joint-record low of 3.2% posted during the three-month period to January 2018,” he said.
“Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s unemployment rate amongst females has never been lower.
“The unemployment rate fell to 2.1% in the latest period which compares with 4.6% for males.
But while employment is rising, FSB NI policy chair, Tina McKenzie said there were other significant factors raising concern.
“Employment increasing and unemployment decreasing is certainly a good news story, in particular given that our unemployment rate is below the UK average, which isn’t always the case,” she said.
“However, economic inactivity remains a significant challenge in Northern Ireland, and while it has decreased this quarter, the gap between us and the rest of the UK is substantial.
At present the rate here stands at 27.9% compared to 21.2% for the UK as a whole.
“If one of the outworkings of Brexit is that our access to EU workers is restricted, then it is crucial that we have as many people participating in the labour market as possible.
“Full implementation of the ‘securing our success’ apprenticeships strategy, would be a first step in the right direction.”