Posted on Wednesday 23 January 2013 by Ulster Business

Job centre

The unemployment rate in Northern Ireland has dropped slightly but remains higher than the UK average, with the number of people claiming jobless benefits rising again last month, according to official figures.

The Labour Force Survey estimated the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at 7.9% or 69,000 for the three months between September and November last year, down 0.1 percentage points, or 1,000 people on the rate recorded in the previous quarter.

However, the Northern Ireland rate is now above the UK average rate of 7.7%, with UK national figures showing the number of people out of work fell by 37,000 in the same period to 2.49 million.

The Office for National Statistics also said the number of people claiming Jobseekers' Allowance across the UK fell by 12,100 to 1.56 million in December, the lowest figure since June 2011.

In contrast, another 500 people joined the dole queue in Northern Ireland last month, putting the claimant count at 65,200. The claimant rate of 7.1% of the working age population is the second higher among the 12 UK regions and well above the UK average of 4.8%.

And worryingly, 4,500 more people are claiming unemployment-related benefits than a year ago, compared with a 2.5% decrease in the UK. The four highest claimant count rates by district council area are in Derry, Belfast, Strabane and Limavady.

On the positive side there was an increase of 0.5%, equating to 9,000 people, in employment in the three months to November, and a drop of 6,000 or 0.4% in the number of people classed as economically inactive.

Commenting on the figures, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: "Whilst the official measure of unemployment in Northern Ireland decreased over the quarter, it is disappointing that the number of people on the claimant count has continued to increase. The rate of unemployment in Northern Ireland was similar to that in the UK and still compares favourably to the rates in the European Union (10.7%) and the Republic of Ireland (14.7%)."


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