Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland unemployment rate falls to 5%

Figures show over 560,000 economically inactive

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's unemployment rate has fallen slightly to 5.3% over the last year, according to latest figures.

It's estimated some 48,000 people are currently out of work in Northern Ireland. That was down 3,000 on the last quarter.

And the separate claimant count – which monitors those claiming unemployment benefits – was down to 31,600 in January, a fall of 1,000 on December.

The labour force survey said the rate for October to December was down 0.5 percentage points since the same period in 2015, and 0.3 percentage points on the previous quarter.

But the rate was above the UK level of unemployment at 4.8%.

There was a slight increase to 70% in the employment rate – the percentage of 16 to 64-year-olds who are in work – but the economic inactivity rate, covering those who are not in work or education, also rose slightly to 25.9% to 563,000 people.

More: Jobless total falls to lowest for 10 years

Unite the Union regional secretary Jim Kelly said the figures demonstrated the challenges facing the economy.

“While there has been a half-percentage point reduction in the numbers unemployed over the past year, the rate is still higher than the UK comparator and is the second highest of any UK regions.

"A far higher proportion of NI's potential labour force is outside the labour market.

"Only 70% of 16 to 64-year-olds here are employed – the lowest proportion of any UK region and significantly below the UK average of 74.6%.”

 The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency said the figures appeared to be little affected by the vote to leave the EU but added: “The post-referendum picture is still emerging and will continue to do so over the coming quarters and years.

"It is also not possible to separate out the specific impact of the referendum in this quarter from pre-existing trends.  However, the latest figures show there has been little change in unemployment rates since the EU referendum.”

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