Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland unemployment hits lowest ever level

By Jonathan Bell

Northern Ireland's unemployment rate has fallen to the lowest level since records were compiled in the mid-1990s.

Labour statistics for the first quarter of 2018 also put the local unemployment rate as the lowest in the UK.

However, rates of economic inactivity - that is those of working age but neither in work or seeking employment - although it decreased, is the highest level in the UK.

The labour market statistics were published on Monday by the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency. In them unemployment decreased over the quarter and the year.

For the period January to March 2018 unemployment was at 3.1%, the lowest since records began in 1995 and a decrease of 2.1 percentage points over the year. The UK rate is 4.2%, the Republic's 6.1% and across the European Union it is 7.1%.

The statistics suggest 51% of those unemployed in Northern Ireland were long-term unemployed that is over a year out of work. That compares to 25.3% in the UK.

There was slight increase of 1 percentage point to 69.7% in employment in Northern Ireland for the quarter.

Economic activity stood at 28%.

The figures show 29,000 people were claiming out of work benefits or universal credit, representing 3.2% of the workforce, in April. An increase of 200 for the previous month.

While confirmed redundancies decreased over the year.

The Department for Economy received confirmation 308 redundancies took place in April 2018. Although this was the highest monthly total since November 2016, there was a decrease of around a third in the number of redundancies (2,067) over the year to the end of April 2018.

"The economic inactivity rate decreased over the quarter but increased over the year. Although one of the highest rates recorded since 2010 and the highest rate of the UK regions, the current inactivity rate is significantly below peak rates recorded in mid-2009," said a statement from the department.

"The improvements in the local labour market are similar to that of the UK labour market, which is reporting the highest employment rate and lowest unemployment rates on record. In contrast to the NI experience, the UK results also show the lowest inactivity rates on record."

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