Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland jobs in services and manufacturing ‘pass their pre-recession peak’

By Margaret Canning

Jobs in the services and manufacturing sectors in Northern Ireland have now passed pre-recession levels — but long-term unemployment remains a problem, latest statistics show.

At 3.3%, the unemployment rate for March to May was the third lowest on record, according to the labour force survey.

And a year-on-year fall of 2.1 percentage points (pps) was “statistically significant”, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) said.

However, the rate had risen by 0.2 pps over the quarter, but at 3.3% remained below the UK average of 4.2%.

But at 52.7% of the jobless cohort, Northern Ireland had double the numbers of long-term unemployed, defined as those who have been without work for more than 12 months, compared to the UK average of 27%. 

At 27.9%, the economic inactivity rate was up very slightly over the year — but Nisra said the increase was “not statistically significant”. 

The separate quarterly employment survey showed that employment in the manufacturing and services sectors — covering everything from estate agents to restaurants — were now above pre-recession levels, said Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey.

There were 763,440 jobs in the first quarter of the year, which was up by 6,090 jobs on the last three months of 2017 and up 18,610 year on year.

Mr Ramsey said the figures showed that jobs growth was “clearly accelerating” in the province.

“Since the first quarter of 2012, there has been a net gain of nearly 72,000 jobs,” he said. “Manufacturing employment is up 4.3% year on year and employment is above pre-recession levels. Construction employment is now at its highest level since the third quarter of 2010.”

However, construction jobs still remained 25% below their pre-recession peak. 

The services sector added around 12,000 jobs over the year, accounting for 64% of the growth over the year.

Upper Bann DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley welcomed the

figures. “It is particularly notable that whilst there has been a statistically significant drop in the unemployment rate over the last 12 months, there has been no statistically significant change in the economic inactivity rate.

“The key challenge is not just ensuring that unemployment remains low but that any decrease is not just transferred onto the economic inactivity rate.”

FSB NI policy chair Tina McKenzie said the figures present a “complex picture”.  While unemployment was still low by historical standards, she said levels of economic inactivity remained “troubling” as they showed no signs of decreasing.

Belfast Telegraph

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