Belfast Telegraph

Jobless total sees slight fall

Dole queues shortened slightly last month with the number of people signing on down 3,300, a new report reveals.

There are now 443,200 claiming unemployment and jobseekers benefits, according to the seasonally adjusted figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO). The rate of unemployment is 14.3% of the workforce, down from 14.4% in November.

The drop in those signing on was entirely accounted for by 3,300 men coming off the dole, while there was a small increase in the number of women claiming benefits. However, over the year there was a 4.6% jump in the number of women joining the live register (up to 155,061), while the number of male claimants decreased by just over 3% (to 279,723).

The CSO said the number of long-term claimants - people signing on for a year or more - rose by more than 25,000 since the same time last year to 180,798.

Avine McNally, assistant director of the Small Firms Association, said the figures highlighted the huge challenges being faced to get people back to work.

"What is also concerning about the continuing levels of job losses is that our ability to create new jobs is being damaged by rising business costs, uncertainty in the economy and limited access to credit," she said.

"Small businesses are struggling to save jobs as they have to cut costs further in the face of ongoing economic uncertainty in both the eurozone and in the domestic market."

Mark Fielding, chief executive of the small and medium sized business association Isme, said more is needed from the Government than public relations lip service, a couple of training schemes and a reliance on emigration.

"Real and coherent jobs policies are badly needed instead of the sector being constantly hit with state-influenced rising costs, increased bureaucracy and madcap mandatory sick pay proposals," he said.

Mr Fielding pointed to a recent Isme survey which showed 22% of small and medium sized businesses expect to shed jobs over the next 12 months.

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