Northern Ireland's unemployment rate drops to 3.4%
Northern Ireland retained one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe over September to November last year according to the latest labour market data
The 3.4% rate in the third quarter came close to the record low of 3.1% posted in the first quarter of 2018, as unemployment dipped from the second quarter rate of 4.1%. There were 2,000 extra people in employment over the latest quarter, bringing the total number in the workplace to 845,000.
Despite the gains, the new figures revealed a rising number of people classed as economically inactive (neither in work or looking). Northern Ireland's economic activity rate stood at 27.9%, with half of those unemployed out of work for one year or more, double the UK average of 24.9%.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said despite having a rate below the UK average, Northern Ireland remains at the bottom of the regional league table for employment and economic inactivity.
The third quarter of 2018 saw the UK record a new record employment rate of 75.8%, against an economic inactivity rate of 21%. "Economists would describe the current state of the labour market conditions in both the UK and NI as 'tight'," said Mr Ramsey.
"This term means that both economies are close to full employment with recruitment difficulties and labour shortages fuelling wage growth."
He said that skills and labour shortages remain a growing concern within Northern Ireland, particularly given the declining number of EU nationals in the workplace.
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Addressing the issue yesterday, chair of the Federation of Small Businesses in NI, Tina McKenzie, said: "From a business perspective, if future migration policy is going to restrict access to labour, then it is vital that we remove barriers to entry for those currently not engaged with the labour market."