Northern Ireland’s labour market has continued to improve with unemployment at a record low of 2.3% and employment at a record high, according to a report.
But the labour market report for the three months to November also revealed that NI still has the highest economic inactivity rate in the UK's 12 regions at 25.7%.
Nonetheless, the employment rate is also at a record level of 72.6%, up 1.1 percentage points on the quarter before. It was up 2.7 percentage points over the year.
However, it’s still the second-lowest rate of employment in the UK, with the lowest in the north-east of England at 71.4%.
The unemployment rate had fallen over the quarter by 0.6 percentage points (pps) and decreased by 1.2pps over the year.
And while economic inactivity — which covers those who are neither in work nor looking for work, whether due to illness, retirement or study — is the highest in the UK, it had fallen 1.9 percentage points over the year.
The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, which compiled the report, said: “The continued improvements in the NI labour market are consistent with the UK experience, where employment was the highest on record, unemployment was joint lowest on record and inactivity was the lowest on record.
“It is worth noting, while the NI unemployment rate was the lowest of all the UK regions, NI had the second lowest employment rate and highest inactivity rate.”
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said there had been few signs of deterioration in the labour market towards the end of the year — but he said he expected some deterioration this year.
Mr Ramsey said some business surveys, such as the NI Chamber of Commerce report into business conditions in the final quarter of the year, had pointed to a slowdown in hiring.