Belfast Telegraph

Unemployment here under control: survey

Unemployment is stabilising in Northern Ireland but output figures show we have not shaken off the effects of the downturn.

According to the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment's labour force survey for December to February, the unemployment rate is 6.8%, unchanged over the quarter and down 0.5% on the year.

The rate here is lower than the UK rate of 8.3% and below the EU and Republic of Ireland rates of 10.1% and 14.8% respectively.

However, the claimant count - the number of people signing on for jobseekers' allowance -grew by 200 in March, with the number of claimants now 61,500.

Just under 45% have been unemployed for one year or more, down 2.5% over the year.

The unemployment rate for 18 to 24-year-olds is 17%, down 3.2% on the year.

But at 27%, the economic inactivity rate in Northern Ireland is the highest of anywhere in the UK.

Northern Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said: "Without doubt there is some relatively positive news stemming from Northern Ireland's latest labour market data.

"Unemployment levels appear to be relatively well contained but in particular it is great to see that there has been a fall of 3.2% in our youth unemployment rate."

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the labour market showed "resilience" but said it was only one part of the continuing "human recession".

"Inflation is continuing to sap disposable incomes. Therefore the pain from the recession continues to be felt even for those individuals and households in work/employment. The devaluation in living standards for most people continues."

DETI's index of production, also published yesterday, shows that output fell 0.3% over the last quarter of 2011 but was up 3.5% on the year before.

Yet production output is still 9.1% below its 2008 peak.

The services index rose by 0.7% in the fourth quarter but was down 3.3% on the year before - but is nearly 17% down on its 2006 peak.

Mr Ramsey said construction also bore stark evidence of a lack of real rebound.