Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland unemployment falls to five-year low as 600 quit dole in month

By Lesley Houston

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit fell to a five-year low in August, new figures show.

Around 600 people left the dole queue last month — but while the claimant count has fallen by nearly 10,000 in the last year, Northern Ireland still has the UK’s highest claimant count at 5.9%.

The latest monthly decrease in Northern Ireland claimants (1.1%) was also lower than the UK decrease (3.7%). Meanwhile, the separate unemployment rate from the labour force survey was 6.6% — down 0.3% on the previous quarter.

The total number of employee jobs in Northern Ireland was estimated at 712,480 for June 2014, representing an increase of 2,210 (0.3%) over the quarter.

However, the Unite union said the data proved Northern Ireland remained a “jobless blackspot”.

Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly said the figures underlined the need for a new economic approach.

“Although the numbers unemployed has fallen over the past year, it remains significantly higher than its pre-crash level.”

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said youth unemployment remained a “key problem area” for Northern Ireland — with youth unemployment 20% compared to the UK’s rate of 14.5%. He added that Northern Ireland’s long-term unemployed — those unemployed for over one year — remains “stubbornly high”.

But on the whole, he said the statistics showed the economic recovery “remains on track”.

Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said the bank was forecasting employment levels would rise by approximately 2.8% but added: “Although earnings are reported to be rising, they are still not keeping pace with inflation.” Nigel Smyth, director of the CBI Northern Ireland, said the growing economy was feeding into new jobs.

“Employment is now back to levels last seen in 2009 — with 712,500 employee jobs in June 2014,” he said.

“The growth in jobs is being driven by the private sector with over 16,000 new jobs created in the last 12 months, offsetting a reduction of around 3,000 jobs within the public sector.”

Belfast Telegraph