Unemployment is slowly creeping up from record low levels in the North, with latest government figures showing the number of people out of work in Northern Ireland increased by 6,000 to 35,000 over the three months to July.
While unemployment fell across the UK as a whole during the last quarter by 55,000 to 1.36 million, it was a reverse picture in Northern Ireland as the number of people out of work increased slightly to bring the North’s jobless rate into line with the UK average of 4 per cent.
Previously the North’s unemployment rate had been below that of mainland UK. It had fallen to a historic low of 3.1 per cent at the start of this year, but at 4 per cent the May to June jobless rate still remains one of the lowest on record for Northern Ireland.
One of the factors driving up the increase in the number of people out of work in the North has been a sustained series of significant redundancies locally. In the last 12 months the number of people made redundant has risen to 2,865 – 35 per cent higher than it was in the previous year.
Last month Northern Ireland had a further 117 confirmed redundancies take place.
According to Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank chief economist in Northern Ireland, the expectation is that the North's unemployment rate is set to move upwards over the coming months.
However, he said despite the less than upbeat outlook the latest labour market report contained some positive indications at least for at a certain age group in the North.
“The number of individuals aged 50-plus in employment reached an all-time high in the three months to July, and jumped by almost 10 per cent year-on-year. There were even steeper rises for those aged 60 [females]/65 [males], with the numbers working within this age group surging by one-third over the last year.
“Once again this reinforces a trend that we have been seeing in recent years, namely, the ‘greying of the labour market’ -–almost one in eight of all pensioners [aged over 65 years] were still working in some shape or form.”