Belfast Telegraph

Number claiming unemployment benefit in Northern Ireland falls for 11th month

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's dole queue has shrunk for the 11th month in a row, adding to a day of cheer for the economy.

According to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, there were 59,500 people claiming unemployment benefit in December – down 600 from the month before.

The statistic makes December the 11th month in a row in which there has been a fall in the claimant count. And the separate Labour Force Survey said the unemployment rate in Northern Ireland was 7.3% for September to November – unchanged from the previous quarter and down from 7.9% on the same time in 2013. However, the rate was above the UK level of 7.1%.

The survey of households also showed there were 804,000 people in employment over the quarter, giving a working age employment rate of 67.4%. But that rate was well below the UK employment rate of 72.1%.

Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said the figures were further evidence of improvement in the labour market.

"The number of monthly claimants in Northern Ireland has continued to fall, reflecting a solid rise in employment opportunities over the latest quarter," she said.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the overall findings were "encouraging" but that long-term unemployment was a concern.

The Labour Force Survey shows that over 50% of the unemployed, or 33,000 people, have been out of a job for more than a year.

The unemployment rate for 18 to 24-year-olds was 22.5% – up 3.4% over the year. However, the numbers of economically inactive fell by 9,000 over the quarter, leaving Northern Ireland with an inactivity rate of 27.2%.

And despite the fall, the province remains saddled with the highest economic inactivity rate of 12 UK regions.

But Jimmy Kelly, of trade union at Unite, said: "What is needed is a sustained strategy designed to grow investment and grow wages."

Belfast Telegraph