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Number of unemployed rises by 300

Employment in Northern Ireland has fallen for the seventh quarter in a row, official figures show.

There were 60,900 people on unemployment related benefits in November - up 300 (0.5%) from the October figure, said the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra).

The quarterly employment survey, also released yesterday, showed there were 698,390 employee jobs in September, a net fall of 750.

But Nisra also said the unemployment rate fell between August and October from 7.4% to 6.9%. That compares to 14.2% unemployment in the Republic and 8.3% in the UK.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: "Our rate of 6.9% now compares very favourably to the equivalent rates for the European Union (9.7%) and Republic of Ireland."

Nearly 40% on the dole have been unemployed for over a year. Nearly one in five (18.2%) of 18 to 24-year-olds is claiming unemployment benefits.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said that at 17,700, female unemployment was at its steepest since 1996. A key reason was welfare reform with lone parents for example switching status from being economically inactive in receipt of benefits to actively seeking work on Jobseekers' Allowance. "As a result, they have moved from one welfare benefit register to another and the official unemployment register has risen in the process.

"Therefore much of the rise in the claimant count has been nothing to do with deteriorating economic conditions."

But Neal Lucas, managing director of executive recruitment business Neal Lucas Recruitment said he had seen a 26% increase in CVs from senior level people in the last six months. "Due to the continuing weak economy some of Ulster's best known and longest established firms are being forced to undergo major restructuring processes, leaving even managing directors to face the reality that their position no longer exists."