Posted on Wednesday 11 September 2013 by Ulster Business

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The number of people claiming unemployment benefit in Northern Ireland fell again in August while the overall unemployment rate also decreased, according to official government figures.

The claimant count fell by 300 to 62,200 in August, meaning the number of people on jobless benefits has fallen by 2,700 over the past seven months.

The overall unemployment rate dropped by 0.9 percentage points to 6.9% for the three month period between May and July. That puts the province's unemployment rate back below the UK average of 7.7% and the 13.5% rate in the Republic.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, which published the figures, also noted that the total number of people in jobs had increased by 0.5% - or 3,240 -over the quarter to 698,390.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said the statistics showed "encouraging signs" and pointed out it is the longest period where there has been a sustained decrease in unemployment for nearly six years.

The Minister added: "The continued decrease in the unemployment rate, supported by the recent increase in overall jobs, is encouraging and reflects Northern Ireland's strengthening economic position. There were more positive signs for the private sector earlier this week, when the Purchasing Managers Index for August showed that business activity here grew at its fastest rate in six years.

"Our strategy aims to continue to develop high value-added, quality jobs as well as encouraging investment to further demonstrate that Northern Ireland is a great place to do business. Next month, we will be hosting an investment conference to showcase Northern Ireland to potential investors, as well as highlighting the strength and potential of our key export sectors."

Commenting on the unemployment figures, Danske Bank Chief Economist Angela McGowan said the latest results are "further evidence that the local economy has turned a corner". 

"Without doubt we are seeing the early stages of a recovery with many local indicators (including Danske Bank’s consumer confidence index) taking a turn for the better," she said.   

“A labour market improvement is also underway at national level and this trend is going to be closely watched by markets as the unemployment rate is now so closely linked to the Bank of England’s interest rate movements.  However, households should not panic just yet about rising interest rates; even with these improving indicators, the low interest rate environment will undoubtedly remain with us all of this year and throughout 2014.”

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