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NI unemployment almost doubles in coronavirus wake, figures show

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Northern Ireland's unemployment rate increased its highest on record for one month.

Northern Ireland's unemployment rate increased its highest on record for one month.

Northern Ireland's unemployment rate increased its highest on record for one month.

Unemployment in Northern Ireland almost doubled in April, official figures show.

The figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) show for the impact the coronavirus outbreak is having on the economy.

In April 2020 the unemployment claimant count, which includes those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance and Universal Credit for primarily for being out of work, was 56,200, or 6.1% of the workforce.

That was up from 26,500 in March, an increase of 89%. That was the highest monthly increase on record.

At 6.1% the claimant count rate is similar to rates seen in 2009/10 and 2014, and below the most recent peak of 7.3% in December 2012.

In terms of redundancies, 773 were proposed in April with 117 taking place. In March 557 were proposed.

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The number of proposed redundancies in April is the fifth largest in the last five years while the monthly increase in the claimant count is the highest monthly increase since records began and brings the claimant count to 2014 levels.

Ulster Bank economist Richard Ramsey said it was likely the 7.3% peak of December 2012 in unemployment figures would be surpassed in May/June.

While not wholly unsurprising, the immediacy and scale of the increase in claimants is shocking and does raise serious concerns around the fundamental strength of the labour market. Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb, chief economist, Grant Thornton, added: “The claimant count figures, which have almost doubled, are a dramatic realisation of what we feared the impact of COVID-19 would be on the economy.

"While not wholly unsurprising, the immediacy and scale of the increase in claimants is shocking and does raise serious concerns around the fundamental strength of the labour market and how well the economy can bounce back, especially as job retention and business support schemes are scaled back.

"A weaker labour market reduces demand in the economy and reduces wider economic confidence. It is increasingly likely that the much hoped for immediate bounce back in economic performance after the lockdown will be a longer and slower climb.”

The latest figures also reveal the median monthly pay in NI up to March was £1,715, an increase of 1.5% on the previous three months and an increase of 3.3% on the same period in 2019.

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