Unemployment rate falls to 10-year low, but economic inactivity rate jumps again

THE Northern Ireland unemployment rate has fallen to a 10-year low of 3.9 per cent

THE Northern Ireland unemployment rate has fallen to a 10-year low, but the economic inactivity rate has jumped to its highest level since 2009, the latest government figures reveal.

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates for the period August to October show that the economic inactivity rate increased to 29 per cent, while the unemployment and employment levels fell.

The Northern Ireland unemployment rate fell to 3.9 per cent, down by 1.4 per cent on the last quarter and 1.7 per cent on the year. The decrease brought the rate in the north below UK levels (4.3 per cent) for the first time since July 2013, while it is also less than the figure in the the Republic of Ireland (6.1 per cent) and European Union (7.5 per cent).

The number of people claiming unemployment related benefits decreased by 300 over the month to 29,000 in November . and is the 21st consecutive monthly decrease.

The number of people in work fell marginally over the quarter (0.1 per cent) and by 1.3 per cent over the year, with the current rate sitting at 68.1 per cent.

Of greater concern is the rise in the economic inactivity rate in the north, now at an eight year peak. The level has increased to 29 per cent, a 1.2 per cent jump on the last quarter and a 2.7 per cent rise over the year. At 29 per cent the economic inactivity rate is now the highest recorded since 2009.

The figures further show there were 191 confirmed redundancies in November and over the last year to November 31 there has been a 51 per cent decrease in the number of confirmed redundancies: from 3,730 in the previous year to 1,835.

Meanwhile private sector jobs increased over the quarter (0.5 per cent) and year (2.1 per cent) to their highest level since records began in 1974, while public sector jobs decreased over the quarter and increased marginally over the year, and are now 10 per cent below the series peak in 2009.

In terms of output the services remains strong, increasing by 1 per cent over the quarter to the highest point since 2008.

However, the production sector experienced another sharp contraction in output over the quarter mostly due to a large fall in the manufacturing sub sector of food, beverages and tobacco.

PwC Northern Ireland partner David Armstrong said the latest figures contained some mixed messages.

“Overall, this is another reminder that employment data alone is not a proxy for productivity, output and wealth creation.”

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