Belfast Telegraph

Building sector is leading the way in Ulster jobs growth

By Jamie Stinson

The construction industry is leading jobs growth as Northern Ireland's claimant count fell by 1,000 in May.

The separate labour force survey (LFS) found the unemployment rate for the province in the three months to April was now 6.1%, higher than the UK average of 5.5%.

There was a slight rise of 0.1% on the previous quarter, but it had declined from 6.9% on the same period last year.

The separate claimant count for numbers of people signing on was also down 1,000 over the month of May to 43,400.

There has been a fall of 12,000 in the unemployment claimant figures over the last 12 months.

And there were 721,410 employee jobs in March - an increase of 8,680 over the quarter.

Jobs growth was strongest in construction, with jobs up 5.6% in the first quarter of 2015 to 1,620, and up by 3.6% on the previous year.

However, the Construction Industry Group [CIG] warned that those jobs may be lost unless the Stormont dilemma over welfare reform is resolved.

CIG chairman Stephen Kane said construction firms are worried jobs will need to be cut if the Executive can't fix the current gridlock.

"There is a consensus of change in the industry that their work will dry up and that is linked to the impasse at Stormont.

"In six to 12 months there could be quite significant change."

Earlier this month, Dunmurry-based Maurice Flynn and Sons (MFS) said it was cutting 50 jobs as a result of the budgetary stalemate.

The labour force survey also showed that the long term unemployment rate - those who have been out of work for more than 12 months - was now 64.5%, up 13.8% year-on-year and almost double the UK figure of 32.3%.

Youth employment saw a slight rise of 0.1% year-on-year, reaching 19.3%, still higher than the UK average of 13.6%.

Angela McGowan, chief economist at Danske Bank, said: "This monthly labour market data paints a relatively good picture, with employment levels in Northern Ireland rising to 68.4% and the monthly claimant count numbers have fallen back again by another 1,000 people during May."

But she said lowering the separate unemployment rate was "proving to be a bit stickier and getting it below the 6% level appears to be difficult".

Ms McGowan said she believed the slight increase in the quarterly unemployment rate was down to losses in the sector of administration and support services and retail.

"That sector includes community and voluntary workers and many of these 'third sector' organisations are dependent on some form of public funding.

"With public sector cuts imposed since late last year, the voluntary sector in Northern Ireland has been one of the first to feel the heat."

Belfast Telegraph