Northern Ireland jobs boost revealed ... and it's set to get better
Northern Ireland has now recouped nearly half of the tens of thousands of jobs it lost during the economic downturn, new figures show.
Statistics on the job market also show that the number of posts available in Northern Ireland during the first quarter of the year were up 2.3% on the year before – the fastest annual rate of growth since early 2008.
And the figures are expected to continue to improve after the month of April saw a series of announcements of around 3,000 new jobs from Invest NI.
The unemployment survey showed the jobless rate for February to April was down by nearly 1% to 6.9% on the previous year.
The separate claimant count statistic, which measures those who are claiming jobseekers' allowance, also fell by 500 during May.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said: "Northern Ireland saw a net loss of 41,720 jobs between the quarter two 2008 peak and the low recorded in the first quarter of 2012.
"In the two years since then, almost half (48%), or over 19,900 of the jobs lost have been recouped."
The employment survey from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment also revealed that employment in manufacturing was up 4.5% – its fastest rate of growth in at least 20 years, according to Mr Ramsey.
Jobs in the services sector – everything from restaurants to law firms – was up 2.1% year-on-year.
However, construction did not see any growth in employment during the quarter, Mr Ramsey said – and has still recouped just 3% of its jobs lost since the downturn.
Mr Ramsey said Northern Ireland had seen its highest level of industrial output in over five years during the first quarter.
Ouput in the engineering sector was at its highest in five years while there was growth of just over 10% in the machinery and equipment sub-sector.
Transport equipment output was also up by nearly 23% year on year, Mr Ramsey said.
Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said Northern Ireland was benefiting from the UK's recent strong economic recovery.
"Stronger household spending power is providing a firm demand base in the local economy and the improved global climate has provided a fair degree of assurance to the corporate side of our economy.
"A vote of confidence also comes from the strong foreign direct investment levels."
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster welcomed the falls in unemployment and the increases in economic output.
The 6.9% jobless rate also compared "favourably" with the Republic's rate of 11.8% and the European Union jobless rate of 10.5%, she said.