Men snap up jobs as unemployment hits six-year low
Huge fall in males on dole but women and young losing out
Men are getting jobs in close to record numbers while female employment is falling, according to new figures.
The labour market statistics also reveal an unemployment rate of 5.8% for September to November - a positive sign and a six-year low, but one which also masked growing economic inactivity.
The jobless rate is drawn from the quarterly unemployment survey.
The Northern Ireland 5.8% rate was the same as the UK average rate, and below the EU and Republic of Ireland October rates of 10% and 10.9% respectively.
There was also a fall of 900 in the separate claimant count in December - the number of people actually signing on - to 50,200, marking two years of decreasing dole queues.
But the claimant count rate of 5.7% was double the UK rate and the highest of all 12 UK regions.
In addition, the percentage of people in the dole queue who had been unemployed for one year or more had increased by 2.4 percentage points to 53.4%.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the figures for September to November revealed an interesting trend among men. "The number of male unemployed has plunged by 13,000 - or almost one third - in just 12 months.
"Male unemployment rate was in double digits and peaked at 10.5% in early 2013.
"A year ago, the local male unemployment rate was 9.1%. Since then it has plummeted to 6.3% - a six-year low."
He said the fall in unemployment was down to more men in the workforce. The figure for working men was up 14,000 over the last year and at 434,000, was close to a record high.
The number of men in full-time employment was growing, and part-time jobs falling.
And men were more likely to be going into self-employment, with that choice of work growing by nearly 10%.
But female unemployment was growing, and was up to 5.2% from 4.1% the quarter earlier, he said.
Numbers of economically inactive were up 9,000 over the quarter, giving an economic inactivity rate of 27.9% - the highest of all UK regions.
Just under 30% were sick or disabled, 27% were students, 23% were looking after the family home, 12% were retired and 9% were "other reason".
And while youth unemployment had fallen, Mr Ramsey said that "younger generations continue to fare less well relative to their older counterparts".
Youth unemployment of 19.2% was still above the UK average of 15.4%.
Mr Ramsey said: "Clearly the under 25s are failing to participate in Northern Ireland's labour market recovery. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for those aged 25 to 49 years of age continues to decline and is currently at a six-year low of 4.3%."
He said the unemployment rate for under-50s was "even lower" at 3.5%.
Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said the fall in unemployment was welcome after other, less encouraging economic data. Ms McGowan added: "The challenge for all countries, including Northern Ireland, is to ensure that policy focus is on delivering high-skilled jobs because it is these jobs that contribute most to economic growth, exports, innovation, earnings and productivity."