North’s jobless numbers jump by 1,000, but remain below EU average

Manufacturing and construction sectors key drivers behind NI’s labour market recovery

The number of people without a job in the North rose by 1,000 in the three months to April, latest government labour market statistics show.

An estimated 29,000 people were looking for work, which pushed the Northern Ireland jobless rate up from a record low of 3.1 per cent in the first quarter of the year to 3.3 per cent over the second quarter.

The latest labour force survey shows that over the last 12 months there have been 3,538 proposed redundancies in Northern Ireland – a year-on-year increase of 20 per cent.

Some of these proposed redundancies stem from job losses in the manufacturing sector but overall, according to the NI Statistics and Research Agency, the local labour market is mainly characterised by “low unemployment with relatively high employment and inactivity compared to recent years”.


“At 3.3 per cent the February-April 2018 rate is the third-lowest rate since records began and is significantly below rates one year ago. The NI rate is below the UK unemployment rate (4.2 per cent) for the third consecutive quarter after consistently being above the UK since the end of 2013,” the agency states.

The North’s jobless rate is also significantly below the average European Union (7.1 per cent) and Republic of Ireland (6.1 per cent) rates for March 2018.

Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank’s chief economist in Northern Ireland, said Northern Ireland’s manufacturing and construction sectors have been the key drivers behind the recovery in the labour market.

“Manufacturing is capitalising on strong global growth and has shrugged off a number of high-profile redundancies. Employment is up an impressive 4.3 per cent year on year (+3,570 jobs) with manufacturing jobs at their highest level since 2004.

“Construction employment continues to rise strongly (plus 7.7 per cent year on year) albeit off a low base. The construction workforce is at its highest level since Q3 2010, though this is just three-quarters of the numbers employed back in 2007,” Mr Ramsey added. Meanwhile, six Northern Ireland manufacturing firms also announced plans on Tuesday to create 41 additional jobs as part of new investment projects, backed by Invest NI totalling £3.7 million.

Big Picture Joinery, Mango Bikes, Amphora NDT, Carey Cleaning Machines Ltd, Gault Engineering and Premier Protective Coatings Ltd all plan to increase their export sales.

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business