Belfast Telegraph

Lack of skills poses threat to Northern Ireland's employment, says survey

By Margaret Canning

A skills gap could emerge in Northern Ireland, with jobseekers lacking the attributes for vacancies, it's been claimed.

The labour force survey showed that there were now 5,108 job vacancies in Northern Ireland - a number which has been rising since May last year, when there were 4,172 roles to be filled.

The separate claimant count showed that there were 38,700 people signing on during December.

Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said the growing number of vacancies suggested there weren't enough people to fill jobs.

"This clearly suggests a gap between the skills of those registered as unemployed and the skills required in the current labour market.

"In the latest statistics we can also see evidence of a slowdown in the rate that people are leaving the unemployment register.

"Perhaps more needs to be done to help these individuals re-engage with the workplace."

The survey yesterday showed a total fall of 11,000 in claimants of jobseekers' allowance in the last 12 months.

The unemployment rate was 5.9% - a decrease of 0.1 percentage points over the quarter.

And the rate of economic inactivity - those who are out of the job market due to illness, studying, duties at home or disability - had also fallen to 26.7%.

But Northern Ireland still has the highest economic inactivity rate of the UK, well above the UK average of 21.9%. In total, 568,000 people were economically inactive over the period of the survey, from September to November 2015.

The long-term unemployment rate had also fallen to 48.9%, a fall of 4.6 percentage points on the previous year.

Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell welcomed falling unemployment, but added: "While there is some indication of a reduction in economic inactivity, it remains to be seen whether this will continue in future."

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