Northern Ireland

Number of Northern Ireland unemployment claimants rises

JobCentre building in west Belfast
Image caption The number of people claiming unemployment benefits was up by 200 to 38,600, following a rise of 200 in February

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in Northern Ireland rose for the second consecutive month in March.

The number was up by 200 to 38,600 following a rise of 200 in February.

The government statistics agency, Nisra, said it was too early to say whether it was the start of a trend of rising unemployment.

In the UK as a whole, unemployment rose by 21,000 to 1.7m in the quarter between December and February.

Unemployment in Northern Ireland has been on a downward trend for the last three years, falling by 26,100 since the most recent peak in February 2013.

The rate of improvement has been slowing down.

The number of people leaving the unemployment register in the year to March 2016 was 6,600 compared to 11,800 in the year to March 2015.

The other measurement of unemployment, measured by the Labour Force Survey, showed a rate of 6.3% in the quarter between December and February.

It was also up slightly, but Nisra said the change is not considered to be statistically significant.

Other labour market measurements in Northern Ireland show some improvement.

The employment rate, which is the proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work, is 68.9%, which is close to its pre-crisis level.

The economic inactivity rate, which measures people out of work but not looking for a job, now stands at 26.3% after a fall of 0.5 percentage points over the quarter.

That is an all-time low though is still noticeably higher than the UK rate of 21.7%.

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