Unemployment in the province is at its lowest level since records began in 1995 according to the lastest figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).
The Labour Force Survey indicates that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the period January-March was 3.1%, and “significantly below” the rate a year ago.
The NI rate is below the UK unemployment rate (4.2%) for the third consecutive quarter after consistently being above UK rates since the end of 2013. below the UK average of 4.2%, itself the joint lowest figure on record the agency said.
It was one of the lowest unemployment rates of the UK regions and was below the European Union at 7.1% in February and the Republic of Ireland which stood at 6.1% in March.
Overall, the results also show an improvement over the quarter in employment and inactivity rates.
The economic inactivity rate decreased over the quarter but increased over the year.
Although one of the highest rates recorded since 2010 and the highest rate of the UK regions, the current inactivity rate is significantly below peak rates recorded in mid-2009.
“The improvements in the local labour market are similar to that of the UK labour market, which is reporting the highest employment rate and lowest unemployment rates on record,” the agency added.
“In contrast to the NI experience, the UK results also show the lowest inactivity rates on record.”
Commenting on the latest data, FSB NI policy chair, Tina McKenzie said that while the welcome new regarding unemployment would grab headlines, the full picture remained much more complex.
“Our employment rate at 69.7 per cent is the lowest of any UK region, with the rate of economic inactivity at 28 per cent, the highest of any UK region and a huge 7 percentage points above the UK average,” she said.
“While it is welcome that economic inactivity has decreased over the quarter, significant action is required to address the issue.
“It is vital that people who can work have a pathway back to employment, so businesses can access the skills they need, and the prosperity and wellbeing of our citizens can increase.”