NI unemployment falls to lowest level in 10 years

Northern Ireland’s jobless rate has fallen below the UK average to 3.8%

Last month the number of people claiming jobless related benefits in the North increased to 29,200. Photograph: iStock

Unemployment has slumped to its lowest level in the North in the last 10 years, new government statistics show.

The UK’s January labour market report highlights that Northern Ireland’s latest jobless rate has fallen below the UK average of 4.3 per cent to 3.8 per cent.

The labour market figures show that in the three months to November 2017 the unemployment rate in the North was also well below the Republic’s equivalent rate of 6 per cent and the European Union average rate of 7.4 per cent.

According to the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency the fall in the numbers of people without a job over the year was the sharpest decrease in 20 years.


The agency believes the jobless decrease was mostly driven by “males as they account for the bulk of those unemployed and experienced a larger drop in the last quarter and year than females”. It also points to a decrease in the number of young people without a job as one of the key factors behind the latest jobless drop.

Although at face value the labour market figures show a welcome trend; falling jobless totals and a growing workforce -  the number of people with a job also jumped by 7,000 over the three months to November to 837,000 - there was also a significant hike of 28.2 per – the highest in seven years - in the number of people neither working or looking for a job in the North.

Last month the number of people claiming jobless related benefits also increased by 100 to 29,200, the first jump since 2013.

Danske Bank economist Conor Lambe said, examined more closely, the latest labour market report is not as positive as it may initially appear.

“Looking forward, we think that the economy will add more jobs in the year ahead, but we expect the average rate of employee jobs growth in 2018 to be lower than in 2017,” Mr Lambe said.

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell

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