Northern Ireland unemployment rate hits record low

Richard Ramsey chief economist at Ulster Bank

Unemployment in Northern Ireland has hit a record low of 3.1%, with a 2.1% fall over the previous year signalling "real change" in the jobs market, according to official figures.

While the United Kingdom unemployment rate hit a 43-year low of 4.2 per cent, Scotland's rate was marginally higher at 4.3 per cent.

The rate has been falling over the past year but was still at 21.9 per cent at the end of March, compared with 21 per cent for the UK.

Overall, the results also show an improvement over the quarter in employment and inactivity rates.

England's jobless rate was also 4.2 per cent, while Wales recorded 4.4 per cent.

Nisra said that the 2.1% year-on-year fall in unemployment reflected "real change". By contrast male inactivity has jumped by 6 per cent over the past year, and is particularly prevalent among young males, aged 18 to 24, with the rate rocketing to a record high of 43.9 per cent.

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Almost a decade ago the jobless rate in Northern Ireland was sitting at a high of around 8.2 per cent - at 3.1 per cent it is now at its lowest level since records began in 1995.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the record low in joblessness masked other problems.

Across the United Kingdom employment increased by 197,000 to 32.3 million, the highest figure since records began in 1971.

He added: "As always, headline labour market data give us a snapshot of the health of the labour market, but growth remains weak in the Scottish economy, and the latest productivity data released last week showed that labour productivity fell 1.9 per cent in real terms in 2017".

In the aftermath of the 2008 recession, the unemployment rate in Northern Ireland peaked at 8.2%. There were 308 confirmed redundancies in April, the highest monthly total since November 2016, while there was a decrease of approximately a third in the number of confirmed redundancies (2,067) over the year to April 30.

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