Builders Hit As Dole Queue Lengthens

Many hundreds of construction workers joined the dole queue in Northern Ireland over the last three months.

Industry representatives have said that over 1,300 builders, carpenters, electricians and other labourers were laid off during the most recent months, with the total jobs lost in the downturn now approaching 28,000, according to the Construction Employers Federation (CEF).

The 1,335 increase in those claiming unemployment benefit between November 2009 and January compares to a rise of only 365 over the previous six months.

And a 'state of the trade' survey by CEF showed that more than half of respondents expect their workload to be lower this year than last.

John Armstrong, Managing Director of the Federation told the Belfast News Letter: "2009 has been one of the most difficult years on record for the local construction industry. Many companies have downsized considerably over the last 12 months. It is extremely concerning to think that layoffs will continue in 2010.

"The painful shockwaves of the collapse in construction activity are gradually being felt throughout the whole economy – far beyond our own sector."

He called on local political leaders to take unprecedented and effective action to use the construction industry as the catalyst for economic recovery.

"Every £1 invested in construction generates £2.84 in economic activity," he said. "Pound for pound, the taxpayer could not get better value for money than this sort of investment.

"There needs to be an open debate about how savings can be made in order to allow a redistribution of funds into the building and maintaining of our infrastructure.
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"CEF acknowledges that such redistribution will require difficult decisions on where the funds are taken from but we believe that the Executive must show strong leadership at this time. This presents an opportunity for our leaders to show that devolution delivers," he said.

"Cutting investment in construction might not immediately strike you as the sort of measure that would greatly affect the average man or woman but when you think of the negative impact it has on the economy, the thousands of workers that depend on that investment and the detrimental impact on public services, it is clear that every citizen of Northern Ireland would lose out if public investment in construction was reduced."

Earlier this month, there was news that Northern Ireland's latest unemployment rate of 6% had shown a drop and had remained below the UK average (7.8%) and is also the lowest rate among the UK regions.

But, a warning was 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."

See: Warning On 'Falling' Unemployment Levels


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