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Northern Ireland 'effectively at full employment', says top economist

A leading economist Northern Ireland economist has said the country is "effectively at full employment", responding to official figures for the past quarter.

Figures released by the Department for the Economy show a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the period between December and February 2018 as 3.5%.

This was a drop of 1.8% from the year before, and a decrease of 0.3% over the past quarter.

Northern Ireland is the region of the UK with the lowest unemployment.

Tuesday's official statistics also show redundancies over the past year fell by almost half over the course of 12 months - to 1,903, down from 3,480 in the years leading up to March 2017.

Ulster Bank economist Richard Ramsey said the figures showed the labour market "effectively at full employment".

He said there had been "strong construction and manufacturing jobs growth" and skills shortages could be a growing issue in the year ahead.

He added that at 2.1%, female employment in the province had never been lower.

Tuesday's figures show male employment at 4.6%.

Across the United Kingdom, unemployment sits at 4.2% while in the Republic of Ireland it is 6.1%.

Figures released on Tuesday from the Labour Force Survey show the levels of inactivity, tracking the number of people not in employment who have not been seeking work over the previous four weeks, and/or who are unable to start work within the next two weeks.

The employment inactivity rate fell over the past quarter by 0.3%, to 27.9%.

Also recorded is the employment rate, which measures the extent to which people available to work are being used.

It increased by half a percentage point to 69.5% in the past quarter, and by 0.8% over the past year.

Full employment does not mean everyone in Northern Ireland is employed, but rather indicates jobs are available for anyone who wishes to work.

The Government defines full employment as eight out of 10 people of working age being employed.

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