An extra 400 people claimed unemployment benefit in Northern Ireland last month, it has been revealed.
With 58,600 seeking payments, the area's increase was the highest proportionate monthly rise in the number claiming in 12 UK regions.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: "It was disappointing to note the rise in unemployment levels reported in the latest set of statistics.
"The Northern Ireland labour market is still feeling the effects of the scale of the recent recession, as well as the continued weakness of the Republic of Ireland economy."
She said the magnitude of the increase in unemployed claimants has slowed considerably in Northern Ireland during the last year. The average monthly increase was 400 during this period and this compares with an average monthly increase of some 1,900 persons during the previous year.
The minister added: "The upcoming draft budget needs to take account of the fact that we have to preserve the private sector's capacity to be the engine of growth for the future, in so far as this is possible.
"My focus is to ensure that businesses have the support they need to develop the high value added products and services necessary to achieve this.
"The new budget has to reflect the fact that the economy and private sector growth remain the number one priority for government."