19/03/2003

NI gains 7,000 new jobs despite 'difficult year'

The regional Labour Market Statistics for the last quarter of 2002 released this morning have indicated that there has been an increase of some 7,000 jobs over the year, with a particularly strong performance in the service sector.

According to NIO Finance Minister Ian Pearson, the year-on-year increases in total jobs were lower than the peak figures of several years ago, however this was still "encouraging evidence of sustained performance despite difficult economic conditions”.

The Quarterly Employment Survey revealed that the seasonally adjusted employee jobs total in Northern Ireland at December 2002 was 660,970 – up 7,090 over the year. This included an increase in the service sector (up 12,060), whereas there were falls in manufacturing (down 3,910), construction (down 660) and in other Industries (down 400).

The survey also showed that compared to the previous quarter the number of employee jobs increased by 1,700. The main increase was in the service sector (3,140) whereas there were decreases in manufacturing (down 1,260) and construction (down 210).

Mr Pearson said: “However, we are not immune from the effects of the current global uncertainty and the recent announcement of redundancies, in particular losses at Bombardier Shorts, has shown that certain sectors are more exposed than others to falling international demand."

Overall, the manufacturing sector has shown a 4% decrease in the number of jobs compared to last year. The Minister said that manufacturing was a "vital sector in the Northern Ireland economy and we must look to improving the saleability of our expertise in this area”.

The most recent unemployment figures (November 2002 – January 2003) were also released indicating that at 5.5%, the unemployment rate for this quarter is down by 0.6 percentage points from the equivalent figure a year ago and 0.5 percentage points lower since last quarter. As it stands, the Northern Ireland statistics are lower than four other UK regions London (6.6%), North East (6.5%), Scotland (5.7%) and the West Midlands (5.6%).

“The highest ever employee jobs figure is complemented by a Northern Ireland unemployment rate which is amongst the lowest on record," the Minister added.

"With an unemployment rate of 5.5% we are beginning to see evidence of increased labour market participation, which is to be welcomed."

Overall 16,000 of the unemployed have been out of work for one year or more and this is 1,000 lower than the number recorded for the same group last year. Recent figures indicate that, the total long-term unemployed over the past five years has decreased by just over 40%.

(GMcG)

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