Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland unemployment total continues to shrink as service sector takes on more workers

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's dole queue has shrunk, marking the longest period of falling unemployment since before the downturn.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment's statistics said numbers of those claiming jobs benefits fell to 62,200 in August – down 300 from the previous month. The separate unemployment rate in the labour force survey was 6.9% for May to July, down 0.9% from the rate of the previous quarter, and down 1.2% from a year earlier.

The figures present the latest cheery economic news for Northern Ireland, after an August review of business activity from Ulster Bank recorded the most positive showing in six years.

The quarterly employment survey (QES) said there were 698,390 employee jobs in June 2013 – up 3,240 in the three months to June and up 5,230 over the year.

Revised figures show that while there was growth in the last five quarters, almost half of the increase in that period took place in the three months to June.

The increase in jobs was led by the services sector – anything from pubs and hotels to professional services firms – with another 2,190 jobs available.

Manufacturing also grew by 1,160 and 'other industries' by 120 – but despite optimism from the housing market, 240 construction jobs were lost in the quarter.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey described the figures as "the most positive set of labour market statistics" since the downturn.

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