Number of jobs in the north reaches record high levels
THE north's labour market remains in rude health, with the number of jobs now at peak levels.
The latest NISRA (Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency) data has revealed that the number of employee jobs in Northern Ireland is now as high it has ever been, climbing 2 per cent (15,580 jobs) over the year to 778,240.
The growth has largely been driven by a unprecedented performance from the private sector, which now accounts for 569,460 of the workforce.
Within the private sector, the services industry was the main catalyst behind the improvement, accounting for over three quarters of annual growth (77 per cent), creating nearly 12,000 new jobs over the year.
The figures, which cover the period February through to April, also highlight further positivity in relation to the labour market as a whole.
The number of those in employment (71.3 per cent) is the joint highest on record, increasing both over the quarter (0.4 per cent) and over the year (1.5 per cent).
As for those out of work, the north's rate of 3.1 per cent remains well below the UK average (3.8 per cent), continuing the trend of low unemployment evident since late 2017.
The stubbornly high economic inactivity rate of 26.4 per cent in Northern Ireland is unchanged over the quarter, but fell by 1.4 per cent over the year. It remains the highest out of all UK regions and significantly above the average (20.8 per cent).
FSB Northern Ireland policy chair, Tina McKenzie welcomed the positive figures, but warned they should not be taken for granted.
"Other economic indices have shown some signs of a slowdown ahead. FSB's latest Small Business Index showed that seven out of 10 firms aren't expecting performance to improve in the next quarter," she said.
“In order to create the right economic landscape for smaller businesses to prosper, the incoming Prime Minister must remedy the Brexit impasse as soon as possible. In Northern Ireland, the political parties must find consensus to restore devolved government, so important projects, such as on broadband and infrastructure, can progress and small businesses can receive the support they deserve.”
PwC Northern Ireland partner, Janette Jones sounded a note of caution, citing the north's high economic inactivity as cause for concern.
“The overall jobs picture should also be seen in the context of political treats and continued low productivity.
"With the likely outcome of Brexit still unclear, this week's Ulster Bank report showing falling private sector output for the third consecutive month adds is worrying and reinforces the importance of productivity as well as jobs in addressing the region's long-term recovery," she added