The number of construction workers claiming unemployment benefit slowed dramatically in June, providing some hope the beleaguered industry may be stabilising, according to the Construction Employers Federation.
Official Government figures showed that the benefit claimant count among construction workers increased by only 10 last month.
That is compared to an unprecedented year in which the number of construction workers claiming unemployment benefit increased at an average rate of over 500 per month as the housing market slumped, new building projects were put on hold and bank lending for private homes and commercial projects became much harder to secure.
John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation, said: “The industry has sustained heavy job losses for months on end. Over 12,000 construction workers have been unable to find alternative work and are now claiming unemployment benefit.
“It is very welcome news that the increase in claimants has almost come to a halt. Whilst I hope that this indicates that better times are ahead, we need to be careful not to read too much into these figures. Worryingly, our State of Trade survey has indicated that many construction companies are expecting the next 12 months to be at least if not more difficult than the last 12 months.
“We will continue to work closely with government to lobby for meaningful intervention to keep our skilled construction workers in jobs.”
Construction is a major industry in Northern Ireland, with annual output estimated at over £3.2bn.
Earlier this week Finance Minister Sammy Wilson unveiled 25 measures aimed at improving public sector procurement and simplifying the process of bidding for government construction contracts. The measures are designed to boost small and medium sized enterprises working in the building sector.