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Number of Northern Ireland jobs at record high, but caution urged as ‘slowdown’ looms



Slowdown: Tina McKenzie

Slowdown: Tina McKenzie

Slowdown: Tina McKenzie

The number of jobs in Northern Ireland reached a record high of 778,240 in March, according to latest official figures.

The increase represents a growth of 2% (15,580 jobs) compared to March last year.

The publication of the Quarterly Employment Survey and Labour Market Report, both released yesterday, also showed private sector jobs at their highest ever level.

However, Tina McKenzie of the Federation of Small Businesses said that the positive job figures should not be taken for granted as firms continue to face uncertainty about the future landscape.

"These further positive employment figures are certainly to be welcomed, showing the dynamism of our local SMEs who continue to create jobs in uncertain conditions, serving as the engine room of the local economy," she said.

"We must, however, not take these figures for granted, other economic indices have shown some signs of a slowdown ahead.

"FSB's latest Small Business Index showed that seven out of 10 firms aren't expecting performance to improve in the next quarter.

"In order to create the right economic landscape for smaller businesses to prosper, the incoming prime minister must remedy the Brexit impasse as soon as possible.

"In Northern Ireland, the political parties must find consensus to restore devolved government, so important projects, such as on broadband and infrastructure, can progress and small businesses can receive the support they deserve."

The Quarterly Employment Survey looks at around 6,000 companies and covers all employers with 25 or more employees and all public sector employers. Over the past year almost a third of additional jobs have come in healthcare, wholesaling and IT.

The number of both full and part-time jobs increased over the year, with full-time jobs accounting for 69% of the annual increases.

Meanwhile, other labour market figures suggest that in the past quarter the unemployment rate here remained close to a record low at 3.1%.

The employment rate, the percentage of working age adults in employment, was at a joint record high 71.3%.

The economic inactivity rate remains the highest of any UK region at 26.4%, according to the report.

Economic inactivity refers to people of working age who are neither in work or looking for a job. The local rate is persistently above the UK average.

The report has also highlighted the ongoing problem of long-term unemployment here.

More than 40% of people without jobs here had been unemployed for more than a year. This compares to 27.7% in the UK.

The number of confirmed redundancies over the most recent 12 months was 16% higher than in the previous 12 months - up from 2,165 to 2,501 - and 323 redundancies were proposed in the month of May.

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