Unemployment in North at lowest level in decade, but ‘inactivity’ rising

One quarter of men and one third of women not working, not seeking employment

UK unemployment fell, leaving the jobless rate at a 42-year low. Photograph: iStock

UK unemployment fell, leaving the jobless rate at a 42-year low. Photograph: iStock


The number of people without a job in the North has fallen to its lowest level in a decade, the latest official figures show.

New labour market statistics also highlight that the number of people employed in the private sector in Northern Ireland has hit a record high of 752,040.

The North’s jobless rate fell to 3.9 per cent in the three months to October, which was below the UK average of 4.3 per cent for the first time in four years.

Overall, the latest labour market figures suggest that the total number of people without work fell to 34,000 between August to October.

But according to Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank’s chief economist in Northern Ireland, the local jobless rate is falling for all the wrong reasons.

“The employment rate has fallen and the economic inactivity rate is rising. The latter hit 29 per cent for the first time in almost seven years and marks a sharp reversal in fortunes from last summer’s record low. One quarter of men of working-age and one-third of females are currently neither in work or looking for work. While the number of unemployed has fallen by 16,000 over the last year the number of economically inactive has jumped by 38,000,” Mr Ramsey warned.


The drop in the jobless total in the North came as Britain shed jobs at the fastest pace in almost two and a half years, in a sign that the labour market is slowing.

The number of people in work fell by 56,000, the most since the period through May 2015, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday. The decline exceeded the median forecast of economists.

Unemployment also fell, leaving the jobless rate at a 42-year low of 4.3 per cent. Again, this was because people left the labour force. A falling participation rate may be sign of weaker jobs demand, according to Bloomberg.

Basic wages rose 2.3 per cent in the latest period, the highest since January. Pay growth still lagged well behind an inflation rate that averaged 3 per cent, meaning a fall in real terms. Pay including bonuses rose 2.5 per cent, the fastest rate this year.

For Bank of England officials, the debate centres on the amount of slack remaining in the labour market. The number of people classified as inactive rose by 115,000 between August and October.

– Bloomberg