Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland job market woes 'pointing to a slowdown in the economy'

By Margaret Canning

Output in Northern Ireland's production sector surged in the final quarter of last year, but the rate of improvement in the labour market appeared to be slowing, according to research.

The Labour Market Survey found the unemployment rate for November to January was 5.7% - up 0.1% percentage points on the quarter before, but down from 6% over the year.

The count of those signing on to claim unemployment benefit fell by 300 in February to reach 31,600.

But the rate at which unemployed people find new jobs slowed down.

Around 11,500 people left the unemployment register in the 12 months to February 2015, compared to 6,800 in the year to February 2017.

Dr Esmond Birnie, senior economist at Ulster University, stressed that the data was further evidence of a slowdown in the economy.

Meanwhile, the Index of Production showed that output in the last three months of the year increased by 5.4%, and by 3.9% year-on-year.

The Department for the Economy said growth was driven by "marked increases" in the food production and electricity and gas sectors. Manufacturing output levels were up by 4.3% over the quarter.

Sterling's weakness in the aftermath of the EU referendum also helped growth in sales outside Northern Ireland.

Output in the services sector here was up 1.6% over the quarter, and by 3.8% over the year.

Belfast Telegraph