North's unemployment rate jumps to 10-month high

BRISTOL, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 18: People queue outside a Job Centre on March 18, 2009 in Bristol, England. Official figures published today show that UK unemployment has risen above two million for the first time since 1997 - and according to the TUC, there are now 10 jobseekers for every vacancy advertised in UK jobcentres, with many economists predicting it will go above three million mark next year. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images).

THE north's unemployment rate has increased over the last quarter to be back on a par with the overall UK figure after three consecutive quarters when it was lower, jumping 0.7 percentage points to 4 per cent, new labour market statistics show.

But that figure for the May-July period, while a 10-month high, is still 1.3 per cent down over the year (from 5.3 per cent) and remains one of the lowest ever recorded for Northern Ireland.

Private sector jobs increased over the quarter and year to their highest level on record (556,250) while public sector jobs rose over the period to 207,610, although this is around 21,000 fewer than its peak in September 2009.

The number of jobs (as opposed to people in work) hits a record high of 765,000, and a drill down into the figures shows that older people are still either continuing to work or are looking for jobs.

Indeed 12.1 per cent of over 65s in the north (one in eight of those beyond the traditional retirement age) are either in work or looking for work, while the number of over 50s in work has never been higher.

Ulster Bank chief economist, Richard Ramsey said there is an expectation the unemployment rate will push higher in the coming months, but noted it is not all doom and gloom.

"Despite this increase in the headline rate, the unemployment rate for those aged over 50 years of age plumbed an all-time low of 3 per cent as more move into work. The number of individuals aged 50 plus in employment reached an all-time-high in the three-months to July and jumped by almost 10 per cent year-on-year."

"Once again this reinforces a trend that we have been seeing in recent years, namely, the ‘greying of the labour market’. Indeed, almost one in eight of all pensioners were still working in some shape or form," he added.

Meanwhile the Northern Ireland claimant count for August (this included those on Jobseekers Allowance plus come out-of-work claimants of Universal Credit) fell back by 100 over the month to 28,000, or 3.1 per cent of the workforce.

Confirmed redundancies last month was just 117, the report says, though redundancies (2,865) in the most recent 12 months is 35 per cent higher than in the previous 12 months, a figure skewed by the likes of high profile closures at businesses like Michelin.

Gross weekly earnings for full-time employees in Northern Ireland in April was £501, the third lowest out of the 12 UK regions and 8.9 per cent lower than the UK average of £550.

And while this figure increased by 1.5 per cent over the year, in real terms workers' wages were 1 per cent lower when inflation was factored in.

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