Northern Ireland

Another rise in Northern Ireland unemployment rate

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in Northern Ireland rose again in June.

The number claiming jobless benefits was 56,100, a rise of 600 on the figures for May. The claimant count has now gone up by 13.6% in the past year.

Analysis by the Ulster Bank indicates that by 2012 the number of jobless will have trebled over five years.

Unemployment in Northern Ireland rose despite a fall of 34,000 across the rest of the UK.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment also uses another method to measure quarterly unemployment.

The Labour Force Survey takes a representative sample by asking households about their status.

It suggests that the NI rate of unemployment between March and May was 7%, up 0.6% from both the preceding quarter and the same period twelve months earlier.

The survey is used to give a comparative rate across the European Union, because methods of claiming benefits differ between nations.

It suggests that NI is below the rate in the UK, 7.8%, the Irish Republic, 13.2%, and the wider European Union, 9.7%.

'Pressure'

Enterprise minister Arlene Foster said she was disappointed because claimant levels had remained "fairly static" over the first five months of the year.

She added that the NI economy was likely to face further pressures because of impending public spending cuts.

Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank chief economist, agreed that spending reduction would have a significant impact on the economy in NI, leading to job losses both in the public sector and areas of the private sector that rely on public expenditure.

He also warned that forthcoming cuts in incapacity and welfare benefits would see more individuals move out of economic inactivity back into unemployment.

"Northern Ireland can expect its dole queue to lengthen significantly as result," he added.

The Labour Force Surveysuggests that the current rate of economic inactivity in Northern Ireland is 26.4%.

Northern Ireland's rate of economic inactivity, defined by those who are not in employment but are not actively seeking jobs, is the highest in the UK, 5.2% more than the nationwide average.

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