Belfast Telegraph

Unemployment falls for 15th month in boost for recovery

By Margaret Canning

Dole queues in Northern Ireland have shrunk for the 15th month in a row – the most sustained fall since 1995, according to the latest government statistics.

Claims for Jobseekers allowance fell by 800 to 56,100 in April, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency said, and had come down by 8,200 over the past year.

Meanwhile, the separate unemployment rate for January to March from the labour force survey was 7.2%, down 0.9 percentage points over the year.

The survey also indicated that around 811,000 people were in employment, including part-time work – the highest for that time of the year since the survey began in 1992, according to Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey.

But he said there were changes in the type of employment being obtained, while more women than men were finding full-time work. The number of men in temporary work had grown by 31%, while women in temporary roles had grown 36% in the last six years.

But full-time jobs held by men were 5% lower than six years ago – though full-time female employees were up 8.3%. Men in part-time jobs were up by nearly 50% but female part-time jobs were up just 7.1%.

Mr Ramsey said: "Both the Northern Ireland female economic activity rate (those actively seeking work whether in employment or unemployment) and employment rates are higher now than they were before the recession.

"Furthermore, Northern Ireland's female employment rate hit a record high of 64.5% in the three months to February. Conversely, the latest male employment rate, though higher than the female rate, remains significantly below its pre-recession level."

He said men had borne the brunt of joblessness because they had been employed in sectors like construction, which had been worst hit in the downturn and were yet to recoup lost jobs.

And women aged 50 and over accounted for most of the rising female jobs – jobs in that age category for women grew by 30% over the last six years, he said.

Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said the data showed "solid progress" in the economy and there was room for more growth.

"It appears that Northern Ireland still has significant scope for driving up local self-employment levels and policy focus in this area could reap significant rewards for the economy going forward," she said.

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