An additional 500 people joined the unemployment lines in the North during September, it was confirmed today.
Enterprise minister Arlene Foster looked to a 0.4% rise in output from the services sector as offering a glimmer of hope and noted the 7% unemployment rate for the last quarter was slightly lower than the previous three months.
But figures released today showed that output from the Northern Ireland Production sector fell by 0.5% during the second quarter of this year, while UK output increased by 1%.
The minister said: “The figures released today highlight the fragile state of the recovery in Northern Ireland and, given pressures on government expenditure, it is clear that the recovery must be led by the private sector.
“Fostering economic growth is a key priority of the Northern Ireland Executive.
“The Executive Sub-Committee on the economy will continue to work on developing an economic strategy and will be consulting shortly on their framework for action. We will seek to secure from the UK Government the necessary policy levers to grow the dynamic and innovative economy.”
But the Ulster Bank’s Chief Economist in the North, Richard Ramsey, said the sharp rise in unemployment since the credit crunch began, was leading to substantial economic damage.
“Over the last three years, NI’s unemployment register has increased by 34,800 (almost 150%) which represents just under 1,000 per month,” he said.
“These deteriorating labour market conditions have occurred before the full force of the forthcoming public expenditure cuts are felt.
“The state of the housing market, and falling house prices, has arguably attracted the most attention over the last three years.
“Looking ahead, the labour market will be at the sharp end of the fiscal correction which is about to take place.
“Therefore, the state of the labour market and rising unemployment, alongside the associated human impacts, will be under the economic spotlight over the next three years.”
He said the latest unemployment figures “portray a familiar story” and brought the total number of unemployment benefit claimants to 58,300.
Mr Ramsey said the figure was a far cry from the six figure dole queues of the 1980s which peaked at 123,500 in October 1986, but he warned of the damage being done to the economy.
Ms Foster said: “Although the figures for June to August 2010 showed little change in the Northern Ireland unemployment rate, more recent figures for September 2010 showed a further rise in the number of people claiming unemployment benefits, which highlights the ongoing impact that the recession has had on the Northern Ireland labour market.
“However, it was encouraging to note the increased output in the Northern Ireland Services sector during the second quarter of 2010. This is the third consecutive quarterly increase in the series and mirrors the pattern in the UK Services output. The latest increase reflects the improved performance of the business services and finance sector in particular.
“Against this, the Northern Ireland Production sector showed a decrease in output of 0.5% during the second quarter of 2010. It is disappointing that the output gains from the first quarter have not been maintained and the latest fall means that Production output has remained relatively flat compared to this time last year.”