The Federation of Small Businesses has called for robust action to try and tackle growing unemployment figures in Northern Ireland.
As statistics for August revealed the number of people out of work had risen by 900 to 57,800, Wilfred Mitchell, FSB policy chair, said that the situation may worsen with the "dramatic" spending cuts ahead.
"Unemployment is rapidly becoming one of the great socio-economic challenges of our age," he said.
"Job vacancies are at their lowest levels since records began, unemployment figures continue to rise, and it is the youngest who are being hit the hardest."
Figures released for the period May - July 2010 recorded a fall in the Northern Ireland unemployment rate to 6.8%.
But more recent figures for August 2010 showed an increase of 900 over the month in the number of unemployment benefit claimants.
The total number of employee jobs in Northern Ireland was estimated at 699,230 for June 2010, representing a fall of 1,120 over the quarter.
Angela McGowan, chief economist at Northern Bank, said that local unemployment levels still remain well below the double-digit levels experienced in many other countries.
"The fact that 41.4% of the unemployed have been jobless for 12 months or more represents a huge cost to both the individuals concerned and society as a whole." she said.