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Unemployment queues shrink in Northern Ireland, but economic slowdown continuing

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Warning: Dr Esmond Birnie

Warning: Dr Esmond Birnie

Nigel McDowell/Ulster University

Warning: Dr Esmond Birnie

Dole queues in Northern Ireland have shortened by 700 people as the overall level of those employed here also increased.

The latest Labour Market Statistics, published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), show a 0.8% rise in the employment rate here over the last quarter.

And the economic inactivity rate, which sits at 26.9%, fell by the same amount over the last three months.

The overall unemployment level for April to June stayed flat at 5.3%. However, it remains above the UK average of 4.4%.

Dr Esmond Birnie of Ulster University's Economic Policy Centre said while the latest indicators, including business confidence and house price data, have pointed to a "continued slowdown in the pace of growth in the Northern Ireland economy", the latest employment figures are "positive".

"But, while the message is positive in the main, there are no grounds for euphoria," he said.

"Most of the gains are very small. Northern Ireland still lags far behind GB in terms of the employment rate (and the inactivity rate is much higher). The coming months will probably show further slowdown in the economy."

The more recent seasonally adjusted number of people claiming unemployment related benefits stood at 29,800 in July 2017, representing a decrease of 700 from the previous month's revised figure. This is the first release containing four full quarters of post-EU referendum data.

Across the UK as a whole, unemployment fell by 57,000 to 1.48 million in the three months to June.

Employment has reached an all-time high and pay growth picked up pace, easing the pressure on cash-strapped households confronted by higher inflation.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the number of people in work rose by 125,000 to 32.07 million in the three months to June, with the employment rate climbing by 0.3% to a record 75.1%.

Annual growth in wages was 2.1% for April to June, up from a revised figure of 1.9% for March to May.

Once bonuses are stripped out, pay expanded by 2.1% over the period, rising from 2%.

However, once inflation is taken into account, total pay in real terms sank by 0.5% both including and excluding bonuses.

It comes as the cost of living - which has marched higher in response to the Brexit-hit pound - held steady at 2.6% in July, in line with the rate for June.

ONS senior labour market statistician Matt Hughes said: "The employment picture remains strong, with a new record high employment rate and another fall in the unemployment rate.

"Despite the strong jobs picture, however, real earnings continue to decline."

The jobs market remained a bright spot for the economy, with the unemployment rate dropping by 0.2% to 4.4% for the three months to June, its lowest level since 1975.

The number of people out of work dropped by 57,000 on the quarter to 1.48 million - a 12-year low.

Belfast Telegraph