Belfast Telegraph

Business View: NI labour market stats a curious mixed bag of results

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's labour market statistics make intriguing reading because of the contradictions they throw up.

Our unemployment rate is falling, and now enjoys the claim of being on a par with the UK as a whole, at 5.8%.

Our claimant count - the numbers of those actually signing on in a given month - is falling, and dropped by about 900 in December, now at 50,200. But at 5.7%, our claimant count rate is twice that of the UK as a whole, and the highest of all 12 UK regions.

The report from Nisra points out that Northern Ireland will soon have the less welcome claim of holding the highest or second highest UK claimant count rate for five years.

Economic inactivity is another Northern Ireland peculiarity.

We are saddled with the UK's highest rate of economic inactivity of 27.9%, with factors at play including the greater prevalence of mothers staying at home, and our proportionately larger student population.

So while there is certainly good news lurking in the monthly jobs market bulletins, we don't have to delve too far in to remind ourselves of some of our structural weaknesses.

As Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey points out, the fall in unemployment is not yet helping our young people. In fact, the older generation seems to be enjoying all the job-creation bounty, with jobs among the 50-pluses up substantially.

Belfast Telegraph