Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland jobless total tops 60,000

Number of unemployed reaches highest level since 1997

By Margaret Canning

The number of unemployed people in Northern Ireland has soared to over 60,000 for the first time since October 1997.

Statistics from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) show the number of claimants of jobseeker's allowance increased by 600 in July to 60,400.

The unemployment rate is now 7.3%, up from 6.7% in the same period last year.

Since July last year the Northern Ireland claimant count has increased by 6.7% (3,800), which was the same as the percentage increase in the UK.

Nearly half of our unemployed have been on the dole for a year or more. Among 18 to 24-year-olds the rate is 17%.

Yet the rate here still compares favourably with the Republic at 14%, the UK rate of 7.9% and the EU rate of 9.3%.

Also, the 1% monthly increase of 600 claimants was the lowest of the UK regions.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the spiralling claimant count was evidence of the continued "human recession".

"Employment is the main source of income for the majority of households and the latest unemployment figures provided another reminder of the difficulty in maintaining paid employment," he said.

"Finally, the surge in unemployment, coupled with personal debt and the rising cost of living, has led to a record level of personal insolvencies."

Independent economist Philip McDonagh predicted "a long period of this level of unemployment". But he added: "Yet it could be worse. In the 1980s unemployment was over 100,000. I would be surprised if we got to 70,000."

He said the rise in unemployed could be due to school leavers and graduates coming onto the job market, while an increase in the people in employment of 3.3% to 803,000, could be due to more people working part-time.

Employment Minister Arlene Foster said: "The latest labour market indicators recorded a rise in unemployment levels throughout the UK. Given the level of uncertainty about the state of the global economy, the road to economic recovery was always going to be tough and the latest rise in unemployment highlights the challenge that we continue to face.

"It should be noted that the latest Northern Ireland unemployment rate remained below the UK and European average."

With an unemployment rate of 17% among 18 to 24-year-olds, Mark Duggan, head of public sector partnerships at youth charity the Prince's Trust, said it was "incredibly difficult for young people to find work, no matter what their level of qualification is".

Factfile

Northern Ireland's dole queues have more than doubled in size since the recession began in 2007.

  • July 2007: 23,700
  • July 2008: 26,600
  • July 2009: 51,000
  • July 2010: 56,800
  • July 2011: 60,400


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