Northern Ireland

NI jobless total rises to 59,000 - highest in 13 years

One in five young people aged between 18 and 24 who are looking for work are now on the dole, according to the latest unemployment figures.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit last month reached 59,000 - a rise of 100 on the previous month.

That means unemployment has reached its highest rate in 13 years.

One senior economist has warned the jobless total will rise again before it begins to fall.

Over the past year, the jobless total has risen by 3,300, an increase of almost 6%, making the annual increase in Northern Ireland the largest in the UK.

Resilience

The number of young people on the dole is also rising. According to the Labour Force Survey, the unemployment rate for 18 to 24-year-olds in the labour force is over 20% - this means one in five young people eligible for work are now signing on.

Ulster Bank chief economist, Richard Ramsey, said: "Northern Ireland's labour market continues to show resilience in the face of challenging economic conditions.

"Interest rates have been at record lows since March 2009 and this has protected consumer spending and corporate balance sheets to a certain degree.

"Unfortunately interest rates will rise and this, alongside higher taxes and public expenditure cuts, will lead to a resumption in the trend of rising unemployment in the months ahead."

He added: "It will be 2012 at the earliest before we can say whether Northern Ireland's unemployment rate and levels have peaked."

Responding to the latest figures Northern Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said that the jobless figures were unlikely to improve until demand increased and companies started to hire again.

Benefit

"With hundreds of university students and further education graduates about to pile into the labour market in just over two months, we clearly require the introduction of further active labour market policies to stem any outward flow of local talent," Ms McGowan said.

"The facilitation of graduate work placements with local SMEs (small and medium enterprises)would be an enormous benefit to both students and our business sector."

According to a survey of the labour force, another definition of measuring unemployment, the latest overall Northern Ireland rate was lower than the equivalent UK rate (7.8%) for the same period.

It was also below the European Union (9.5%) and Republic of Ireland (13.5%) rates for December 2010.

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