Business

Number of benefits claimants in Northern Ireland drops by 800 in January

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in Northern Ireland dropped by 800 to 37,800 in January
Gail Bell

THE north's unemployment rate fell again in January with the number of people claiming unemployment benefit also dropping by 800 to 37,800.

Latest official figures show the number of claimants fell by 10,300 in the last 12 months while the Labour Force Survey also registered a drop of 0.1 per cent to 5.8 per cent unemployment from October to December last year.

The number of people claiming unemployment related benefits has fallen by 26,900 since the most recent peak in February 2013 with the economic inactivity rate - working age adults neither in work or looking for a job - also down slightly at 26.8 per cent.

Long-term unemployment saw a decrease of 3.9 per cent on the previous year to 51.7 per cent - significantly higher than for the UK (29.3 per cent) - and youth unemployment rate was down slightly to 17.5 per cent - but again higher than the UK's 11.7 per cent figure.

Northern Ireland's annual decrease has been consistently higher than the UK for the last six months but despite a slight narrowing of the gap in claimant count rates, the region has continued to have the highest or second highest UK regional unemployment rate since April 2010.

However, against this, the number of people aged 16 to 64 in work - the employment rate - increased over the quarter and over the year to 68.8 per cent.

That is just 0.1 percentage point below the peak employment rate of 68.9 per cent in April to June 2007 but still below the UK average of 74.1 per cent.

Commenting on the figures, enterprise minister Jonathan Bell said the reduction over the month in the numbers claiming unemployment related benefits, coupled with an increase in the proportion of people in work, was "welcome news".

"While the Northern Ireland unemployment rate (5.8 per cent) is above that for the UK (5.1 per cent), it continues to compare very favourably to the November 2015 rate for the European Union (9.1 per cent) and the December 2015 rate for the Republic of Ireland (8.8 pert cent)," he said.

"Today’s figures show that although there are positive signals of growth in the local economy overall, the unemployment rate remains the same as one year ago."

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