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Let's continue to defy expectations in Northern Ireland

By David Elliott

The jobs market in Northern Ireland continues to defy expectations.

We had all (well, I say 'all' but I mean those with a semblance of reality) expected it to tumble off a cliff as the downturn since 2007 rumbled on.

Granted, it hasn't been a pretty picture, with the dole queue here doubling during that time to well over 60,000.

But – and this will be no consolation to anyone unable to find a job – we're a lot better off than had been predicted.

And in recent months, our unemployment rate has not only kept up with the rest of the UK, but performed better than it, falling to 7.3% against the UK average of 7.6%.

That's striking, because the big worry a few years ago was that the Bank of England might lift interest rates to cool an overheating economy in the rest of the UK, before Northern Ireland got back on its feet.

If the trend carries on as it has been, we shouldn't have much to worry about because the central bank's governor Mark Carney has pledged, in a non-committal-type way, to keep interest rates at 0.5% until UK unemployment falls to 7%.

Of course, that's if you use the jobs market as your main indicator of economic health.

We are normally fairly dismissive of it in this column, given it's generally reflecting an economy six months previous, but the latest performance by the employers of Northern Ireland can't be ignored, particularly as there have been a number of substantial job announcements recently.

So for now, while we're slightly perplexed by the jobs stats, we're more than happy to welcome more of the same.

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