Northern Ireland youth unemployment rises as job losses mount

Image source, Justin Lambert/Getty Images
Image caption,
The unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds has risen significantly

Almost one in 10 young people looking for work in Northern Ireland are unemployed, official data shows.

The number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits in NI rose by 800 to 62,700 in August, according to official figures.

That is more than double the number recorded in March.

The youth unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds is now estimated at 8.2% after a "significant quarterly increase".

The most recent estimates from the Labour Force Survey showed the first "statistically significant" quarterly increase in the unemployment rate since October 2012 - a rise of 0.6pps to 2.9% from February to July.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Evidence of the harsh economic climate is visible on high streets across the UK

In Northern Ireland, young people have been particularly hard hit by the downturn.

"The data indicate that the quarterly increase [in unemployment] was driven by those under 35 years with the youth unemployment rate (16-24 years) estimated at 8.2%," the government report suggests.

"Similarly employment and inactivity rates of those under 35 years worsened (decreasing and increasing respectively) over the quarter."

Across Northern Ireland, there were more than 1,500 proposed redundancies in just six weeks from the start of August to mid September.

In the year to the end of August, 9,160 redundancies were proposed, the highest annual total since records began.

'Tipping point'

Analysis by Richard Morgan, BBC News NI business reporter

The proposed redundancies over the summer are now starting to be reflected in the labour market statistics.

And that trend will continue as companies continue to propose further redundancies.

It is also worth remembering that the government's job retention scheme is still in place, so those on furlough are still considered to be employed.

As that support continues to be wound down we will see more job losses announced.

One economist has told me the labour market is now at a "tipping point" describing last month's redundancies as the first wave of the pandemic hitting the labour market.

The latest data from the NI Statistics and Research Agency shows:

  • Northern Ireland has the lowest employment rate of UK regions;
  • It has the highest economic inactivity rate of all UK regions;
  • Those under 35 years old are feeling the brunt of job losses;
  • Unemployment for those aged 16 to 24 is now estimated at 8.2%;
  • Almost 37% of people who were employed were working fewer hours than normal;
  • The average number of hours worked per week was 28.1 hours, down 5.5 hours per week.
  • There were 820 confirmed redundancies in August and 3,880 confirmed redundancies in the 12 months to the end of August. That is more than double the previous year.

The NI unemployment rate increased 0.6% over the quarter to 2.9% in May-July.

The proportion of people in work (the employment rate) decreased 0.1% over the quarter and 0.5% over the year to 71.5%.

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