There was some good news this week for at least one part of the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland recorded its lowest unemployment rate in almost a decade. This comes in a week where the Brexit backstop agreement regarding Northern Ireland has once again come to the fore.
Will these latest statistics be used for political manoeuvring, most likely, but any shortfall is likely to make little impact upon proceedings in London.
The Norths jobless rate of 3.4% for the three months leading to November 2018 was in contrast to the republics 5.3% and a UK average of 4%. The latest UK government labour market statistics did also highlight the North’s difficulty in finding and maintain EU workers due to Brexit uncertainty.
The statistics suggest a decline of up to 9000 unemployed in the months to November, though this could also be due to a movement of labour.
Although these statistics are positive, the North still lags behind in comparison to other regions within the UK.
Overall employment throughout the rest of the UK reached a peak of 75.8% while in Northern Ireland this amounted to 69.6% of people in employment.
Also, the number of people who are not working and not looking for or available to work rose by 4000 to 327,000 people
According to Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank chief economist for Northern Ireland, there is little evidence to suggest that the North has made “any meaningful inroads in getting off the bottom of the regional league table for employment and economic inactivity rates” in the UK.
He was also one of those who voiced concern over the de3clining number of EU national within the workforce in both the UK and Northern Ireland and how this may be due to Brexit.
He noted the opportunities available throughout Europe and the uncertainty which Brexit is creating.
“The latest UK Labour Force Survey reveals a 5.5 per cent year-on-year decline in EU27 nationals working in the UK in July-September 2018. The decline among EU8 nationals [this includes Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Latvia] has been more marked at 15 per cent year on year.” Recorded the Irish Times.
The proportion of people in work has also grown (70%) but remains noticeably behind the rest of the UK (76%).
Economic inactivity in Northern Ireland also rose slightly, quarter to quarter similar to the rest of the UK.
According to the statistics board, none of this is significant but shows a continuing trend within Northern Ireland of economic inactivity.
Tina McKenzie of the FSB has called for action to tackle “stubbornly high levels” of economic activity.
The chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Northern Ireland, Tina McKenzie, said that while the drop in unemployment was “encouraging”, it was important to “keep in mind that our employment rate remains the lowest of any region of the UK” reported the BBC.
“Our stubbornly high levels of economic inactivity, which includes those not in work or seeking employment, continues to have a wider societal and economic impact,” said Ms McKenzie.
“While there are many historical and social reasons for people to be economically inactive, it’s crucial that we tackle this issue head-on.”
As northern Ireland may bear the brunt of any changes brought about by Brexit its important for government leaders to break the cycle of long term unemployment in the North.
However, this looks set to continue into the future as there has not been a Northern Ireland assembly in quite some time and many do not know the implications which Brexit will bring about as of yet.
The Government in the Republic and many government agencies have recently stepped up efforts to offshoot the impact Brexit may have. We already reported this week on efforts by Failte Ireland to encourage diversification in tourism in the border regions by the allocation of almost €5 million to these efforts.
Some of this work includes training staff in operating in new markets, advertising in the US and European countries and generating new ideas to help curb the potential difficulties that may occur due to Brexit.
From reports in the past few weeks the huge uncertainty has been impacting both islands hugely and has clogged up almost all news networks. We hope to broaden our range of reporting in the coming weeks as Brexit comes to a close.
As seen from the report of unemployment in Northern Ireland this historic and continued unemployment record shows no sign of going anywhere fast.
Spokespeople urge for the government to act and help assist those in long term unemployment and generate ways to offset the potential implications of a hard Brexit.