Belfast Telegraph

Number of Northern Ireland people in employment is highest level ever

Encouraged: Richard Ramsey
Encouraged: Richard Ramsey

By Lesley Houston

More than 820,000 people are currently employed in Northern Ireland, marking the highest level of people in work ever and further proof of an economy in recovery, an economist has said.

Ulster Bank expert Richard Ramsey said jobless figures, which reported a fall of 1,400 people claiming unemployment benefit in July, marked the biggest monthly drop since October 1999, and a 19th consecutive monthly dip.

Statistics showed there were 52,700 jobless claimants in July, which, at 5.9% of the workforce, takes the Northern Ireland figure below the UK average of 6.4%.

Data from the Northern Ireland Labour Force Survey (LFS), a secondary measure of unemployment, also reflected a trend of declining joblessness, with some 9,700 fewer people found in the dole queues in the past 12 months.

Figures for the period from April to June this year put the unemployment rate at 6.7%, which is down half a percentage point over the quarter and 0.8 percentage points over the year.

Highlighting the LFS's figure for the total number of people in employment, the economist said it was now the highest ever – over a full quarter from April to July – standing at 821,000, though he qualified that by noting that the category also encompassed unpaid work of even a few hours per week.

"It's further evidence of economic recovery in Northern Ireland," he said.

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Mr Ramsey said another "encouraging sign" was the employment rate for 16 to 64-year-olds, now the highest it has been in six years.

He did however express surprise that mirroring the fall in unemployment was a decline in wages. He pointed out that the UK figure for earnings showed a decline of 0.2% year-on-year, the first fall since 2009.

"Unemployment is falling at a faster rate than I would have expected but wage increases are slower than I might have anticipated.

"Households are in work and availing of work but are not necessarily getting paid more for it," he said.

And he said a closer look at the claimant count by occupation also showed the areas in which jobs could be found.

Most new jobs were noted to come from the service sector, adding 2,600 jobs over the quarter.

However, in percentage terms, the sector experiencing the strongest jobs growth was in manufacturing, which benefited from 1.2% rise over the quarter and 4.5% over the year.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said the downward trajectory of unemployment claimants was a "tremendous vote of confidence in Northern Ireland".

She added: "These positive signals of growth in the labour market are a reflection of continued investment and job creation."

Where the jobs have come from

The upswing in the number of people in employment in Northern Ireland has been partly caused by recent job announcements from April to June including:

April: 1,000 new jobs at US firm Concentrix Corporation, Belfast

486 new posts at EY's UK operations in Belfast

333 positions at Convergys Corporation, Londonderry

80 jobs at Financial Transparency Utility (FinTrU) Ltd, Belfast

50 postitions at IT firm Novosco Ltd, Belfast

25 new positions at C&C Group in Belfast

May: 400 new positions at Capita Managed IT Solutions in Newtownabbey

31 new posts at Options, financial tech firm in Belfast in June

June: 484 jobs at First Derivatives, Newry

10 posts at Leardon Solutions, Belfast

Beyond the quarter, there were also 628 jobs created at Moy Park, Dungannon, Craigavon and Ballymena; 250 new jobs at Alexander Mann Solutions, Belfast, both in July; plus 143 new posts at SSE Airtricity, Belfast.

Belfast Telegraph