Unemployment in Northern Ireland falls to 3.4%

Labour market figures suggest Brexit is posing difficulties for retention of EU workers

 The number without a job in the North plummeted by 9,000 to 29,000 during the three months to November 2018

The number without a job in the North plummeted by 9,000 to 29,000 during the three months to November 2018


The North’s jobless rate has dropped to 3.4 per cent, below the average rate of 4 per cent in the UK and the corresponding rate in the Republic of 5.3 per cent, but Northern Ireland is struggling to retain EU workers while Brexit uncertainty persists, new figures suggest.

Latest UK government labour market statistics released on Tuesday suggest the number of people without a job in the North plummeted by 9,000 to settle at 29,000 during the three months to November 2018.

Over this period the number of people in work jumped by 2,000 to hit a total of 845,000, which boosted the North’s employment rate to 69.6 per cent.

And while falling jobless and increasing employment levels suggest a strong performance from the North’s economy in the three months to November last year, the North failed to measure up to what was happening elsewhere in the UK.

During September to November last year, overall employment numbers in the UK hit a record high of 32.54 million, according to the Office for National Statistics, propelling the average UK employment rate to 75.8 per cent.

While the number of people out of work also rose modestly across the UK, wages increased and the number of people recorded as “economically inactive” in the UK as a whole – not working and not seeking or available to work – fell by 100,000 to a low of 8.6 million.

In contrast, in the North the total number of “economically inactive” people increased by 4,000 in the three months to November to reach 327,000.

Regional league table

According to Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank chief economist for Northern Ireland, there is little evidence to suggest that the North has made “any meaningful inroads in getting off the bottom of the regional league table for employment and economic inactivity rates” in the UK.

He said the latest labour market survey also highlighted a declining number of EU nationals in the workforce in both the UK and the North.He believes that Brexit and more attractive employment opportunities elsewhere in Europe have contributed to this trend.

“The latest UK Labour Force Survey reveals a 5.5 per cent year-on-year decline in EU27 nationals working in the UK in July-September 2018. The decline among EU8 nationals [this includes Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Latvia] has been more marked at 15 per cent year on year.”