Northern Ireland

NI unemployment benefit claimant figures fall for 14th consecutive month

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Image caption The number of unemployed people in Northern Ireland has fallen for the 14th month in a row

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit in Northern Ireland has fallen for a 14th month in a row.

According to official statistics, 700 fewer people were on the register in March.

The total number of jobless is about 57,000.

However, the unemployment rate rose slightly to 7.7%, which is above the UK average of 6.9%.

Other data published on Wednesday revealed that the Northern Ireland economy continued to grow in the final months of 2013.

There have now been three consecutive quarterly increases.

Stormont economy minister Arlene Foster said: "This is good news in relation to economic performance."

"The various business confidence surveys also continue to give us reasons to be to be positive about the prospects for further improvements in business and economic conditions," she added.

Mrs Foster said the continuing decrease in unemployment benefit claimants was "the most sustained fall since June 1995".

"The rate of unemployment in Northern Ireland (7.7%) is above that of the UK (6.9%) but compares favourably to the rates in the European Union (10.8%) and the Republic of Ireland (11.9%)," she said.

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