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Northern Ireland employers call for flexibility post-Brexit due to difficulty attracting staff

Employment down by nearly 1%

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland’s unemployment rate grew slightly over the summer months to 4.3% — up nearly 1%, latest figures show. 

However, the labour market report from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency shows the rate of joblessness was down by 0.4 pps in June to August, compared to the same period in 2017.

Nisra said it compared with a rate of 5.9% around two years ago. 

But Northern Ireland has a more severe problem with long-term unemployment, with around half of the unemployed here on the dole for a year or more, compared to just 25% in the UK.   

Northern Ireland has also has the UK’s worst economic inactivity rate at 27.5%  - with around 322,000 neither in work nor looking for work due to factors including illness, retirement, full-time study or a decision to look after the home. 

The figures also show that in September, the number of people claiming out of work benefits, which includes some out-of-work claimants of Universal Credit, was 28,100 (3.1% of the workforce).

That was a fall of 100 from August’s revised figure.

Tina McKenzie, the policy chair of the Federation of Small Business in Northern Ireland, said: “While unemployment has slightly increased this quarter to 4.3%, it is still low by historic standards and employers are reporting difficulty filling vacancies.”

And she said businesses would need flexibility post-Brexit so that they could employ workers from the EU where there was difficulty filling vacancies.

“Last week, FSB joined with other business organisations calling on the Government to ensure future migration policy is flexible and that business owners can hire the EU workers they need to grow their business.

“Northern Ireland’s rate of economic inactivity, which includes those not in work or seeking employment, remains stubbornly high at 27.5% showing no decrease over the quarter and more than 6 percentage points above the UK average.”

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