Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland jobless total falls but recovery still slowest in the UK

By Margaret Canning

Unemployment is continuing to fall in Northern Ireland though job market recovery is lagging behind other UK regions.

The jobless rate for July to September was 7.3% – down from 0.2% in the previous quarter, and a decrease of 0.4% on the same period last year.

While the rate of economic in activity remained the highest in the UK at 27.4%, the numbers of economically inactive people fell by 9,000.

There was a corresponding 11,000 jump in the number of people in jobs over the quarter, suggesting some of the economically inactive had joined the job market.

October's separate claimant count, which measures recipients of jobseekers' allowance, was 61,000, down 500 from September – making October the ninth month in a row in which that measure fell.

However, Northern Ireland's claimant count rate of 6.7% was the highest of the 12 UK regions – England's north east was second with 6.3% – and over 50% higher than the UK average of 3.9%.

October therefore became the 43rd month in a row in which Northern Ireland had the highest or second-highest claimant count rate in the UK.

In descending order, Londonderry, Strabane, Belfast, Limavady and Moyle were the council areas with the highest claimant counts, with Strabane the only region where the claimant count rate was up.

And the rate at which the claimant count is falling (4.7%) is well below the 16.9% fall in the UK as a whole. The decrease was also the lowest of 12 UK regions.

Economist John Simpson said: "All the chances are that we will recover more slowly than the other UK regions. There are several factors which mean that recovery here will be slower than we would wish.

"We would need a radical shift in the way in which we deliver government policy, and we need to sharpen up government policies in skills, engineering, infrastructure and other areas."

Though Northern Ireland's claimant count rate was well above the UK, its unemployment rate, which is measured in a quarterly survey, is lower than the UK average of 7.6%.

The percentage of people who had been unemployed for one year or more was down 2.4% to 50.7% – but the rate of youth unemployment was 24.7%, up 5.5% over the year.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: "The more recent continued decrease in the unemployment rate, as well as the fall in unemployment benefit recipients demonstrates that there is some improvement in the labour market, which is to be welcomed."

Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said: "The labour market data, combined with this week's good news about falling inflation, should help to strengthen consumer and business confidence in the economic recovery.

"Business surveys and the hard data are all pointing to a solid recovery for 2014."


Number of people in Northern Ireland on jobseekers' allowance

Belfast Telegraph