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Figures show Northern Ireland joblessness tally at eight-year low

By Margaret Canning

Published 20/10/2016

Latest figures are showing unemployment in Northern Ireland is now at its lowest since the financial crisis
Latest figures are showing unemployment in Northern Ireland is now at its lowest since the financial crisis

Northern Ireland's jobs market appears so far unscathed by the vote to leave the EU with latest figures showing unemployment now at its lowest since the financial crisis.

The labour force survey, which covers a period following the June 23 vote, said unemployment had fallen over June to August to reach 5.5% - down from 6% on the year before and the lowest since 2008.

And the separate claimant count, also from the Department of the Economy, showed that the numbers of people signing on fell by 400 last month, to reach 34,900.

The numbers claiming jobseekers peaked at 64,700 in 2013 and has since fallen by 46%.

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said the fall was "good news for our economy".

The economic inactivity rate fell to 25.7% - the lowest since records began in 1995, but still above the UK average of 21.5%. The youth unemployment rate was down 5.6 percentage points to 13.2% - but was still above the UK average of 12.8%.

But while the figures suggest the jobs market has been insulated so far from any negative effect from the Brexit vote, Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey warned it may just be a question of time.

The bank's own survey has found the economy had stagnated in the third quarter.

"It should be remembered that the labour market statistics are lagging indicators. The Ulster Bank PMI suggests that the Northern Ireland economy broadly stagnated in the third quarter, and the Brexit vote has created uncertainty across many private sector firms, which may impact on investment intentions.

"So while the latest labour market statistics are positive and encouraging, we do expect to see the unemployment rate drift higher in the months ahead."

And he said the Mid and East Antrim District Council area was the only one not to have experienced a fall in jobseekers' claimants over the past 12 months. The area has reported major job losses from manufacturers such as tobacco giant JTI Gallaher and Michelin, both of which are closing their operations in Ballymena. JTI will close by next year while Michelin shuts the year after.

Belfast Telegraph

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