Business

NI unemployment rate remains one of UK's lowest

The Northern Ireland unemployment rate (3.5 per cent) remains one of lowest in the UK

THE north's unemployment rate remains one of lowest in the UK, but economic inactivity remains a cause for concern, the latest figures show.

The Labour Force Survey for the period March through to May shows that the unemployment rate remains unchanged over the quarter at 3.5 per cent, but considerably lower than the same time a year ago (5.3 per cent) and the UK equivalent (4.2 per cent). The number of those in work increased over the quarter marginally (0.3 per cent) and over the year (1.1 per cent ) to 69.8 per cent, but remains below the UK average of 75.7 per cent - the highest on record.

The economic inactivity rate - the proportion of people not working and not seeking or available to work, decreased over the quarter, but increased over the year to 27.5 per cent and remains the highest of all UK regions.

The latest labour force data has also revealed a number of record figures in relation to the number of people in work (852,000), the total number of females in work (413,000) and annual employment growth across almost all categories.

Ulster Bank chief economist, Richard Ramsey said the latest employment figures were positive.

"It is encouraging to note that the growth in employment over the last year has been largely driven by employees and full-time work. There was a net gain of 33,000 employees (+4.8 per cent) over the year to March – May 2018. Over the same period, full-time and part-time employment increased by 25,000 (+4.1 per cent) and 5,000 (+2.3 per cent) respectively."

"Two key trends stand out in Northern Ireland's employment growth performance. Firstly, female employment growth has outperformed their male counterparts. Secondly, employment growth amongst those aged over 50 years of age has exceeded those in the younger age-brackets," he added.

Danske Bank chief economist, Conor Lambe said the latest figures revealed good news in terms of rise in the employment rate and a fall in economic inactivity, but sounded a note of caution.

“Looking across the different regions of the UK, Northern Ireland's labour market sits near the ends of the spectrums. Despite being relatively high in a local context, Northern Ireland's employment rate of 69.8 per cent is the lowest of the UK regions and the only rate to be below 70 per cent."

"The long-standing challenge of high inactivity means that Northern Ireland's economic inactivity rate remains the highest of all the UK regions," he added.

Last month the number of people claiming unemployment benefits fell by 200 to 28,600 in June.

There were 792 confirmed redundancies in June, the largest number since November 2012.

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