Belfast Telegraph

Number of jobless increases by 500 in one month

By Margaret Canning

The number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits in Northern Ireland grew by 500 in December, according to the latest government figures.

The labour market statistics from the Department of Finance and Personnel show a claimant count of 65,200 for last month - just over 7% of the workforce.

Airline Flybe yesterday announced 300 job losses across the UK - though a spokesman said just 15 out of its 250-strong workforce in George Best Belfast City Airport would be affected.

Despite the growing claimant count, the unemployment rate - derived from a quarterly household survey - fell to 7.9% during September to November. That was a fall of 0.1% on the previous quarter - but an increase of 1.1 percentage points on a year earlier.

Unemployment was higher among men with a rate of 10.1% compared to 5.4% among women.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the claimant count had now grown by 41,700 since the credit crunch began in August 2007, and that 2012's year-on-year increase of 4,500 was the steepest since 2009.

More than 55% have been unemployed for one year or more and the unemployment rate for 18-24-year-olds is 19.1% - an increase of 0.7 percentage points over the year.

The unemployment rate among the over fifties was 5.6%, up from 3.9% a year earlier.

Joblessness among the 25 to 49-year-old group was 6.7% - up from 5.3% a year earlier.

Northern Ireland's rate was higher than the UK rate of 7.7% but below the EU rate of 10.7% and the Republic's rate of 14.7%.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: "Whilst the official measure of unemployment in Northern Ireland decreased over the quarter, it is disappointing that the number of people on the claimant count has continued to increase."

Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said that unlike the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland had not bounced back from labour market problems, with the unemployment rate hovering at around 7.9% since the middle of last year.

"Although the Executive has put in place a number of initiatives to support those who are currently excluded from the labour market, it will take time for these initiatives to have an impact," she said.

The claimant count rate of 7.1% was the second highest of the UK regions - before the north east of England, at 7.7% - marking the 33rd month in a row that Northern Ireland has had the highest or second highest UK region unemployment rate.