Belfast Telegraph

No room for complacency in bid to thwart unemployment

By Liam Clarke

The good news is that our unemployment rate is lower than the UK average and hasn't risen in recent months.

The bad news is that, without outside investment, it is likely to get a good deal worse.

The reason we aren't rising as fast as some other areas is that our large public sector has been fairly well protected against jobs cuts.

Sammy Wilson, the Finance Minister, has made it a point of pride that there have been no compulsory redundancies in the public service here.

In England and Wales, on the other hand, local authorities have been cut to the bone. That may still come our way, as the Executive and local councils struggle to make ends meet, while maintaining public commitments to keep rates down.

The English cuts have a trickle-through effect to us, because of the Barnett formula, which ties our annual block grant subsidy to spending in Britain.

The Executive has maintained jobs by cutting services and capital spending.

In spite of talk of rebalancing the economy, the real loser has been sections of the indigenous private sector which are over-reliant on public spending and risk-averse.

The typical victim of the recession here has been a building worker, not a public servant.

Recovery is likely to be long and slow unless the Executive can attract inward investment to seed growth.

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