Belfast Telegraph

Gloomy outlook for jobs despite dip in claimant count in Northern Ireland

By John Mulgrew

The number of people in Northern Ireland's dole queues has fallen by 500, but there are warnings the employment level here is practically at a standstill. In the last quarter the labour force survey showed a small increase in overall unemployment - up to 5.7%.

The claimant count dropped by 500 to 33,600 in November.

But there were employment falls in some areas, including the services sector.

It reported its first drop in numbers since the second quarter of 2015.

And output in the production sector continued its recent decline over the quarter.

Ulster University economist Esmond Birnie said Northern Ireland's overall employment level was now relatively flat.

"For some time, indeed from before the Brexit vote, there have been indications that the pace of economic recovery has been slackening," he said.

"The monthly labour market statistics from NISRA (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency) present a very mixed bag.

"For some time Northern Ireland has been lagging the UK average in terms of output growth. Now this may also be true in terms of jobs growth.

"The figures imply 2017 could be a challenging year for the Northern Ireland economy."

There was evidence of a continued slowdown in jobs growth, and the production sector reported a decline of 1.4% over the year.

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said the figures contained "some positive messages across a range of key labour market indicators".

"In particular, following reductions in unemployment in the medium term, I welcome that employee jobs are now broadly back to their previous peak in 2008 alongside the continued reduction in the economic inactivity rates," the minister added.

The latest jobs report from NISRA said that "overall it is not possible to specifically attribute any of the latest changes in the local labour market or economy to the impact of the EU referendum".

Meanwhile, the latest official figures show there are now 776,526 houses in Northern Ireland as of April 2016.

That's a rise of 0.7%, or 5,393, according to the Northern Ireland Housing Statistics report.

Belfast Telegraph

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