North’s jobless rate declines marginally to 6%

Latest set of official data show total claimant count fell to 45,200

North’s enterprise minister Arlene Foster   said   the latest figures still portray “a more positive picture than a year ago”. Photograph: Eric Luke /Irish Times

North’s enterprise minister Arlene Foster said the latest figures still portray “a more positive picture than a year ago”. Photograph: Eric Luke /Irish Times

 

One thousand people stopped claiming jobless benefits in the North last month, according to latest government labour market figures which show the total claimant count fell to 45,200.

Over the year the total number of people claiming financial support for being out of work has fallen by 11,700 people but the latest statistics show 5.1 per cent of the workforce still remain on jobless benefits.

Although there was a fall last month in the claimant count other figures released today showed that in the three months to February the total number of people out of work locally rose by 3,000 to an estimated 53,000.

But the North’s enterprise minister Arlene Foster remained upbeat and said the latest figures still portray “a more positive picture than a year ago”.

“The Northern Ireland unemployment rate (6 per cent) is above that for the UK (5.6 per cent) however it continues to compare very favourably to the January 2015 rates for the European Union (9.8 per cent) and the Republic of Ireland (10 per cent),” the minister said.

But the figures also reveal that while there was an increase in the total number of people in employment in the North during the three months to February – which rose to 833,000 – the local employment rate (68.6 per cent) was below the UK average of 73.4 per cent and was the lowest rate among the twelve UK regions.

Danske Bank’s chief economist Angela McGowan said the fall in the North’s total claimant count last month is a positive development.

“Given half a chance Northern Ireland’s economy has the potential to thrive. However, for that to happen the region needs to create a united vision of a shared future. Polarized politics needs to be put in the background and we need to prioritise long-term economic investments in areas such as education and skills,” Ms McGowan said.