Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland redundancies and closures push unemployment rate up to 4%

By Margaret Canning

Local unemployment has hit a 10-month high of 4% after a rash of redundancies, according to the latest statistics.

The Labour Market Report indicated the figure for May to July was up 0.7 percentage points on the previous quarter — and Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey predicted it would climb further over the coming months.

The rate is currently the same as the rest of the UK, where it is at a record low, and still well below the 5.3% recorded here during the same quarter of last year.

However, the report from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency showed there were greater numbers of long-term unemployed here, with that figure climbing by 7.2 percentage points on the same period 12 months ago.

The employment figure fell slightly during the quarter to 69.3%, compared to the UK’s rate of 75.5%.

Mr Ramsey said joblessness had been creeping up since a record low of 3.1% over the first few months of this year.

Yet the statistics also showed an increase in employee jobs to a high of 765,100 in July, with growth in most sectors.

However, it was the services sector, which covers businesses from estate agents to restaurants, that had the strongest jobs growth, adding 1,430 roles.

There were 589,000 people classed as economically inactive — neither in work nor looking for work — with an economic inactivity rate of 27.7%, well above the UK rate of 21.2%.

There have been 2,865 people made redundant here over the last 12 months, an increase of more than one-third on the year before.

Earlier this year, there were closures at large manufacturing employers including JTI Gallaher’s in Ballymena, which ended its phased shutdown in June, and at Schlumberger in Newtownabbey.

Manufacturing accounted for 39% of the redundancies, or 1,104 of the total. 

Despite these struggles, the same sector added 760 jobs during the quarter.

Mr Ramsey said the figures also showed growth in the numbers of over-50s in work, with unemployment at an all-time low of 3% and a 10% jump of numbers of people in that age group in jobs. 

“Once again this reinforces a trend that we have been seeing in recent years, namely the greying of the labour market,” the economist added.

Belfast Telegraph

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