Published: Wed, May 16, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

North's unemployment rate falls to record low, but inactivity concerns remain

North's unemployment rate falls to record low, but inactivity concerns remain

Unemployment in the province is at its lowest level since records began in 1995 according to the lastest figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

With a rate of 3.1% in the first quarter of 2018, Northern Ireland has a lower rate than the United Kingdom (4.2%) for the third consecutive quarter.

The figures also showed that 51% of those unemployed in Northern Ireland in the last quarter were long-term unemployed.

The latest figures follow news that the country's productivity, measured by output per hour worked, fell by 1.9 per cent in real terms previous year.

England's jobless rate was also 4.2 per cent, while Wales recorded 4.4 per cent.

At 28%, the rate of economic inactivity, which covers people who are neither in work nor looking for it for reasons including illness and study, remained the highest of all United Kingdom regions.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey

Although one of the highest rates recorded since 2010 and the highest rate of the United Kingdom regions, the current inactivity rate is significantly below peak rates recorded in mid-2009.

"Our employment rate at 69.7 per cent is the lowest of any UK region, with the rate of economic inactivity at 28 per cent, the highest of any UK region and a huge 7 percentage points above the UK average", she said.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the record low in joblessness masked other problems. As a result, Northern Ireland finds itself increasingly stuck in a low wage / low economic growth model.

Across the United Kingdom employment increased by 197,000 to 32.3 million, the highest figure since records began in 1971.

FSB Northern Ireland policy chair, Tina McKenzie believes the high economic inactivity rate requires "immediate attention".

The number of people without a job in the North has fallen to an all-time low. There were 308 confirmed redundancies in April, the highest monthly total since November 2016, while there was a decrease of approximately a third in the number of confirmed redundancies (2,067) over the year to April 30.

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