Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland employment figures rise but young are being left behind

By Jamie Stinson

Unemployment in Northern Ireland has fallen for the 22nd month in a row, but young people are being left behind as the over-50s are stealing their jobs.

At 5.9%, the province has the highest claimant count of all the UK regions, with Northern Ireland having either the highest or second highest rate for the last 55 months.

The rate of unemployment, as measured by the Labour Force Survey, was estimated to be 6% between July and September. This is down 0.6% on the last quarter and down 1.3% year-on-year.

While youth unemployment, those aged between 18 and 24, is down 5% over the year, one in five young people are still out of work, much higher than the UK average of 15.1%.

Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank chief economist, warned the improving headline unemployment figure hides the fact that not all age groups are getting into work, with the over-50s accepting jobs previously taken by young people. Mr Ramsey said: "Over half of the net gains in employment over the last year have occurred within the over 50s age-group. Furthermore, the gains within this age-bracket have outnumbered the employment increase within the 18-24 years cohort by 8 to 1.

"This highlights the challenge facing the younger generation as the older generations are increasingly snuffing out employment opportunities for them."

The amount of people out of a job for more than a year was up 8.1% to 58.8% from last year. The rate of economic inactivity people was 27%, still the highest in the UK.

The claimant count was 5.9% in the third quarter, with 52,100 people in Northern Ireland claiming unemployment benefits. It was down by 14.3% over the year, the lowest decrease of all the UK regions. In comparison, the UK figure fell by 28.6%.

Angela McGowan, Danske Bank chief economist, said growth in the private sector accounts for the decline in unemployment. "The rising employment levels reflect the fact that inward investment has been strong and the private side of the economy has definitely turned a corner."

Ms McGowan criticised politicians at Stormont for not doing enough to keep highly-skilled graduates in the province. "The long term success of the economy and labour market will ultimately be dependent upon our ability to retain local talent and enhance local skill levels. Unfortunately, the recently proposed university and college funding cuts pose a very real threat to our longer-term economic ambitions."

"Slashing the education budget now to avoid raising taxes will ultimately result in a lower standard of living and higher unemployment rates long term."

Belfast Telegraph