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Northern Ireland unemployment rate lowest among UK regions

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

There was little change in the Northern Ireland unemployment rate over the quarter and the rate remained below the UK average.

The Northern Ireland seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was estimated at 4.1% for the period July - September 2008. This was similar to the rate of 4.2% recorded last quarter, but was up from the rate of 3.8% recorded in the same period one year ago. The latest Northern Ireland rate remained below the UK average (5.8%) and was lowest among the UK regions. It also compared favourably to the European Union rate (6.9%) and the Republic of Ireland rate (6.2%) for August 2008.

Seasonally adjusted estimates for the same period showed that there were 788,000 people in employment in Northern Ireland. The new figures represented a slight decrease of 0.1% in employment levels over the quarter, but a rise of 0.7% over the year.

The number of people claiming unemployment related benefits increased by 1,100 during the latest month to 30,300 in October 2008. This increase was similar to that recorded last month (1,200), which was the largest monthly increase in over twenty years. The Construction industry accounted for approximately 65% of the rise in claimants in October. The number of unemployed claimants in Northern Ireland in October 2008 (30,300) was about the level reported some four and a half years ago (30,600 in June 2004).

There were 805 confirmed redundancies in October 2008 compared to 116 in September 2008. This reflects the impact of job losses at companies such as Seagate (Limavady) and consequently was the highest monthly level of confirmed redundancies since October 2000. However, the number of outstanding redundancies (i.e. proposed but not confirmed), of which the Department is already aware (1,308) is only slightly higher than this time one year ago (1,274).

The latest seasonally adjusted working age economic inactivity rate in Northern Ireland (26.9%) has increased slightly from the figure of 26.8% recorded for the previous quarter. The Northern Ireland rate (26.9%) continued to be significantly higher than the UK average (20.9%) and is the highest among the UK regions.

Commenting on the figures, Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster said: “It is clear that we are continuing to experience the fall-out from the slowdown in the construction industry, with nearly two-thirds of this month’s increase in unemployment benefit claimants relating to people usually employed in that sector.

“However, it is important to keep this in perspective. Overall, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits is still relatively low in historical terms and we are not alone in feeling the effects of the downturn in the global economy. Our latest unemployment rate remained well below the European Union average and was lowest among the UK regions.

“Indeed, economic conditions may get worse before they get better, but I am not in the business of exaggerating any downturn. We must keep focused on our ultimate goals. Companies that can keep business costs low, while remaining innovative in their product development will emerge stronger and better placed to compete internationally. Even in the context of difficult economic conditions, there is still scope for high value added businesses to find a niche for their products and services.

“I am currently assessing the recommendations of the MATRIX reports and we are working to develop a blueprint on how to further exploit Northern Ireland’s science and Research and Development capabilities to accelerate economic growth.”

Notes to Editors:

1. The official measure of unemployment is sourced to the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and refers to people without a job who were available for work and had either looked for work in the four weeks prior to interview or were waiting to start a job they had already obtained. This definition is consistent with that recommended by the International Labour Office. Unemployment estimates for the European Union and the Republic of Ireland are sourced to EUROSTAT.

2. The figures released today contain data from a number of different sources. The unemployment, employment and economic inactivity rates are sourced to the LFS and refer to the period July - September 2008. It should be noted that the LFS figures are estimates, which are subject to sampling error. This means that the exact figure is likely to be contained in a range surrounding the estimate quoted.

3. The Claimant Count measure of unemployment relates to September 2008 and is based on claimant data from Jobs and Benefits Office Administrative Systems.

4. Details of sampling errors, together with more detailed statistical information and definitions of the methodology used, can be found in the Labour Market Report (LMR) bulletin, which is available on the following website:

5. For media enquiries, please contact DETI Press Office on 028 9052 9297. Outside office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

6. General information can be obtained from Martin Monaghan, DETI Statistics Research Branch, on Tel: 028 9052 9421.