Belfast Telegraph

Ulster jobless rate takes jump to 8.4%

By Margaret Canning

The unemployment rate in Northern Ireland increased by 0.4% to 8.4% between December and February, it was revealed.

Figures from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment's labour force survey show the rate grew 1.5% over the year, while the UK's rate was down 0.3% to 7.9%.

Separately, the official claimant count of people claiming unemployment-related benefits expanded by 100 people in March to 64,800, or 7.2%. That rate was the second highest of 12 UK regions.

In addition, the jobless rate among young people rose above one in five to 21.3% – up 4.3 percentage points over the year.

But more encouraging figures out yesterday show output from the services sector in the fourth quarter of 2012 was up 0.7% on the quarter before.

Deti said that when the most recent four quarters were compared with the previous four quarters, the rate of growth was 1.3% "in real terms".

Output from the index of production also climbed 0.3% from the third quarter of 2012 to the fourth quarter, compared to a fall of 2.1% in the UK as a whole.

However, output from production over the last four quarters was down 1.3% on the previous four quarters.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster (left) said: "The latest results indicate some improvements in output though no evidence of a decrease in unemployment. We have to see these changes in the wider context of limited growth in the UK economy and continued recession in the euro area in 2012.

"We can't hope to escape the difficulties in the global economy, but we can continue to lay the foundations of a stronger local economy to take advantage of recovery when it comes."

She said the growth in output in the services sector had been propelled by increases in business and finance, transport and other services.

Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said the economy was "not yet robust enough" for employment to grow.

"With 62% of unemployed people now classified as 'long-term unemployed', it is important that local economic policy ensures that these people are provided with sufficient support to re-engage with the workforce when the economic recovery takes hold."

PwC Northern Ireland chief economist Dr Esmond Birnie says that the 0.2% increase in March claimant count unemployment contrasted with a UK-wide fall of 0.5%.

Struggles in manufacturing, construction and retail meant the economy was still contracting.

"Despite our forecast of marginal growth in 2013, we therefore don't see any real indication of recovery that will reverse the unemployment trend," said Dr Birnie.

Belfast Telegraph