17/02/2010

Warning On 'Falling' Unemployment Levels

Northern Ireland's latest unemployment rate of 6% has shown a drop and has remained below the UK average (7.8%) and is also the lowest rate among the UK regions.

A National Statistics press release, detailing the latest Northern Ireland labour market figures has been published today by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI).

But, a warning has been sounded over more recent figures, with NI Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster commenting: "The rate was recorded at 6.0% during the fourth quarter of 2009. This figure was lower than the UK average rate of 7.8% and was the lowest of the UK regions and was below the Republic of Ireland rate of 12.9%.

"However, more recent figures for January 2010 show a sharp increase of 1,400 in the number of people claiming unemployment benefits," she warned.

"The latest monthly increase in claimants was the largest for several months, both in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK, and these results emphasise that the ongoing impact of the economic downturn is still very much with us.

"Most economic commentators believe that unemployment will continue to rise during the first half of 2010, before a sustained economic recovery is translated into jobs growth. The latest claimant count and redundancy figures indicate that this may indeed be the case," she said.

But, today's official figures did show a decrease from the rate of 7.1% recorded in the previous quarter, but conversely, was up from the rate of 5.3% recorded in the same period one year ago.

The seasonally adjusted number of people claiming unemployment related benefits stood at 56,100 (6.4% of the workforce) in January 2010 – an increase of 1,400 (2.6%) over the month.

This increase was larger than the revised increase of 700 for the previous monthly period and was the largest increase since August 2009.

All 12 UK regions recorded an increase in claimant levels to January 2010, with the UK as a whole recording an increase of 1.5%.

Over the year, the Northern Ireland claimant count has increased by 43.5% (17,000). The equivalent increase in the UK was 30.5%, with the Northern Ireland annual increase ranking highest of the UK regions.

Seasonally adjusted estimates for the period October - December 2009 showed that there were 765,000 people in employment in Northern Ireland.

This estimate was up 1.7% from the previous quarter, but was down 0.7% over the year.

Also revealed today was news that the seasonally adjusted number of working age persons that were economically inactive decreased by an estimated 3,000 over the quarter and the corresponding working age economic inactivity rate decreased to 28.3% (in October - December 2009).

However, the Northern Ireland inactivity rate (28.3%) remained considerably higher than the UK average rate (21.3%) and was the highest of the UK regions.

The Department was notified of 147 confirmed redundancies, which took place in January 2010.

This compared to 344 in December 2009 and 329 in January 2009. There has been a 47% increase in the number of confirmed redundancies over the last year to 31st January 2010 – 4,410 compared to 2,998 in the previous year.

(BMcC/Gk)

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