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Unemployment in Northern Ireland almost doubled in April

An extra 26,500 claimed benefits compared to the previous month as the coronavirus lockdown destroyed jobs.

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An extra 26,500 claimed benefits in April compared to March (Niall Carson/PA)

An extra 26,500 claimed benefits in April compared to March (Niall Carson/PA)

An extra 26,500 claimed benefits in April compared to March (Niall Carson/PA)

Unemployment in Northern Ireland rose by almost 90% in April, official figures suggested.

An extra 26,500 claimed benefits compared to the previous month as the coronavirus lockdown destroyed jobs.

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, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) said.

In April the number on the claimant count was 56,200 (6.1% of the workforce).

This represents an increase of 26,500 (89%) from the previous month’s revised figure, the highest monthly increase on record.

A total of 783 redundancies were proposed in April 2020, higher than March’s total of 557; and a further 124 were proposed in the current month to May 18.

Nisra said: “More timely indicators relating to April and May begin to show the impact of Covid-19 on the labour market.

“The number of out of work benefits’ claimants (the experimental claimant count) almost doubled (increased by 26,500 or 89%) over the month to April (reference date April 9) while the number of proposed redundancies was 783 in April and a further 124 were proposed in the current month to May 18.

“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.”

The number of confirmed redundancies (3,108) in the most recent 12 months was 47% higher than in the previous 12 months.

There has been an increase of almost 300% in claims for the universal credit benefit in Northern Ireland, Stormont has heard.

Meanwhile communities minister Deirdre Hargey revealed a 110% rise in claims for jobseeker’s allowance since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Addressing the Northern Ireland Assembly on Tuesday morning, Ms Hargey said staff in her department have been working hard to process applications, adding that 99.3% of payments were made within the allotted time.

“That equates to around 71,000 applicants for universal credit with an average of 7,900 claims per week,” she said.

“Staff have been working extremely hard and we have 140,294 payments on time, according to data between March 16 to May 14, representing around 99.3% of all payments due by then.”

Ms Hargey said her department has suspended the “recovery of benefit over payments” as well as “loan repayments from a number of social security payments” for three months.

She said this was aimed at providing “financial easement to people with benefit over payment related debt” or an outstanding loan balance.

PA