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Manufacturing Sector continues to buck trend with third successive quarter of jobs growth in Q4 2011 – 2,000 jobs created in under 2 years

The UK posted its twelfth consecutive monthly rise in unemployment, using the claimant count measure, in February. An additional 7,200 joined the unemployment register last month, which was above City analysts’ expectations (+5k). The increases over recent months have largely been linked to welfare reforms which are shifting individuals (e.g. lone parents) from the inactivity register into active job search (economic activity). The UK’s claimant count stood at 1.611 million in February which is closing in on the peak of 1.625 million posted in October 2009. Meanwhile, the UK’s claimant count rate remained unchanged at 5.0%.

NI’s dole queue still grinding higher but by only 200 in February
The number of unemployed continued to push higher last month with an additional 200 individuals joining the dole queue. The current claimant count now stands at 61,400. The rate of increase has continued to be much weaker than expected. Nevertheless, while the claimant count remains half the level that prevailed during the mid‐1980s, it still marks the highest level since July 1997. Since the credit crunch began in August 2007, NI’s unemployment register has risen by 37,900 or 161%. To put this figure into perspective, this rise in unemploymentis almost equivalent to the entire working age population within either Ballymena or Fermanagh District Council Areas.

NI’s claimant count unemployment rate remains at 6.9%
NI’s seasonally adjusted claimant count rate stood at 6.9% in November and was the second highest amongst the 12 UK regions (North East =7.4%). This compares with 5.0% for the UK and remains the highest rate since April 1999. Last month NI’s claimant count level increased by just 0.3% which was lower than the UK rise of 0.4%. The increase in NI’s claimant count over the last 12 months (+4.2%) was also the second lowest among the UK regions (the annual increase in the UK was 11.2%). Meanwhile, NI’s long‐term unemployment rate – defined as the proportion of the unemployed who have been out of work for over 12 months – remains close to, but below, December’s high of 25.1% at 24.6% in February.

Youth unemployment rises for 2nd consecutive month
The number of claimants under the age of 25 years, ‘youth claimant count’, increased marginally for the second consecutive month in February. The rise of 52 in February followed the more substantial increase of 870 in the previous month. The number of under 25s actively seeking work, but unable to find any, currently stands at 18,552. This represents 30.2% of the total claimant count. Since the credit crunch began in August 2007, NI’s youth unemployment has risen by 10,217 or 123%. The current level of youth unemployment remains close to one third above the levels that prevailed when the GFA was signed in April 1998.
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Post by Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist, Northern Ireland, Ulster Bank Capital Markets