Northern Ireland

NI labour market may be at 'turning point', research suggests

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Northern Ireland's labour market may be at a "turning point", research from Ulster Bank has suggested.

Unemployment in Northern Ireland reached record low levels in 2018.

But a bank survey suggests that in January, businesses reduced their staffing levels for the first time in four years.

The bank provides a survey of private sector activity monthly, in what is considered a reliable indicator of the economy.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said 2018 was "characterised by a buoyant labour market, a record high in private sector jobs and growing skills shortages".

'Weak growth'

However, he added that there was now evidence of some weakening.

"Job losses in the services sector are the primary driver of this emerging weakness," said Mr Ramsey.

Overall, the survey suggested that private sector activity grew slightly in January, but it was the weakest rate of growth in more than two years.

The latest official employment data suggests that the Northern Ireland unemployment rate was 3.4% at the end of last year, compared to a UK rate of 4%.

The employment rate in Northern Ireland - the proportion of working age adults in a job - was 69.6%, compared to a UK rate of 75.8%.

Another batch of official data will be published next week.

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