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Ulster's unemployment total is nudging 60,000

More people joined the dole queue in April, according to new jobless figures.

Figures for April show the number claiming unemployment benfits increased by 400 from the previous month.

The total number of people claiming benefits in Northern Ireland is now 59,500.

Statistics for the period February-April show that the Northern Ireland unemployment rate decreased over the quarter to 7.2%.

But the total number of jobs in Northern Ireland was estimated at 703,860 for March 2011, representing a rise of 590 in the quarter.

Over the past year, 3,900 people in Northern Ireland have become unemployed, representing an increase of 7% annually, the largest among the 12 UK regions, compared to a rise of 0.3% in the UK as a whole.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said lowering the rate of Corporation Tax in Northern Ireland could help strengthen the private sector and create more jobs.

"It is encouraging to note the rise in jobs during the first quarter of 2011," she said. "This increase was driven by a rise in opportunities in the service sector.

"It is also pleasing to note the fall in the unemployment rate during the latest quarter.

"The Northern Ireland rate (7.2%) remains below the UK rate of 7.7% and compares favourably to the rates in the Republic (14.7%) and European Union (9.5%).

"I am also aware that the number of people claiming unemployment benefit continues to edge upwards and that overall employment levels remain well below their pre-recession levels.

"It is therefore imperative that we continue to make progress to ensure that Northern Ireland is put well and truly back onto a sustainable road to recovery.

"Lowering the rate of corporation tax in Northern Ireland could be the stimulus needed to sufficiently strengthen the private sector and create the necessary employment growth. However, such a move would involve the Executive having to make difficult decisions on what is a complex issue that will impact on us all.

"I would therefore urge all interested stakeholders to make their voice heard by responding to the consultation before July 1."


The increase in Ulster's unemployment benefit claimants in one month