Unemployment 'to rise above 70,000'
The number of unemployed in Northern Ireland is expected to rise above 70,000 over the next 18 months, an economist has suggested.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey also warned Northern Ireland would continue to have a worse jobless record than the rest of the UK.
Northern Ireland recorded the highest unemployment increase in the UK last month, with an extra 800 people claiming benefits in July, leaving a total of 56,800 people out of work.
Over the year the claimant count increased by 11.8% (6,000) compared with a decrease of 7.6% in the whole of the UK.
Mr Ramsey said: "The latest rise in unemployment comes as no surprise and confirms the beginning of the secondary surge in unemployment that we have been flagging for some time.
"The unemployment register now stands at 56,800 and this is anticipated to rise above 70,000 over the next 18 months or so."
Northern Ireland's unemployment rate now stands at 6.4% - compared with a UK rate of 4.5% - which is its highest rate since June 1999.
Mr Ramsey added: "It is also noted that the gap in the Northern Ireland and UK unemployment rates continues to widen at 1.9 percentage points. It represents the largest differential since September 1999. This trend is set to continue."
The record peak for the number of benefit claimants in Northern Ireland was in 1986 with 123,500. In February 1993 it hit 105,700, and the most recent time it was above the current level of 56,800 was in August 1998 at 57,000.