Unemployment falls again as recovery continues

A woman looking into the window of a job centre as job vacancies have continued to increase
A woman looking into the window of a job centre as job vacancies have continued to increase

The number of people on unemployment benefit has fallen for the 28th month in a row as the number of claimants in Northern Ireland fell by a further 900 in April.

The figure is now 44,300, although data from the Northern Ireland Labour Force Survey for the period January - March shows that the unemployment rate was 6.2% - an increase of 0.5 percentage points over the quarter and a decrease of 1.0 percentage points over the year.

There has been a fall of 11,700 in the unemployment claimant figures over the last 12 months.

Commenting on the figures, Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell said: “Although we have seen a slight increase in the monthly unemployment rate, the annual decrease in both the unemployment rate and the number claiming unemployment related benefits portrays a more positive picture than a year ago.

“The unemployment rate of 6.2 per cent is above that for the UK at 5.5 per cent, however, it continues to compare very favourably to the February 2015 rates for the European Union (9.8%) and the Republic of Ireland (9.9%).”

The Minister added: “I would encourage local businesses, to explore all opportunities for growth, including the range of tailored support programmes from Invest Northern Ireland, to help promote job creation and a healthy local economy.”

Describing a rise in the headline figure for the first quarter (Q1) as “a little worrying,” Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said: “Northern Ireland’s recovery has not kept pace with the rest of the UK but without coordinated action the relatively small gap that currently exists could continue to widen and leave the local economy in a very precarious position, increasingly dependent on hand-outs from the UK Treasury.

“Restructuring the local labour market to ensure we meet the demands of a knowledge-intensive open economy is essential. Investment in retraining, upskilling, education and local infrastructure is crucial to ensure that our unemployment levels do not continue to move in the wrong direction.”