Page last updated at 18:57 GMT, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

More than 550 jobs go 'in a week'

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There have been more than 550 confirmed job losses announced in Northern Ireland over the past week.

And there are fears of further redundancies after administrators at Woolworths said all of its 807 stores would close by 5 January.

Hundreds of jobs are under threat at the high street chain's 19 shops in NI.

On Wednesday it was revealed that unemployment benefit claims in NI in November have shown the sharpest monthly rise for 28 years.

The number of claimants increased by 3,100 last month to 34,100, the largest monthly increase since October 1980.

One-third of job losses were in the construction industry, but the government said other sectors were also being hit by the economic downturn.

Economy Minister Arlene Foster said it was not unexpected, as the "pressure on jobs has been building for some time".

"The sharp decline in employee jobs and the marked increase in claimants show that the pace of change has quickened in recent months," she said.

"There are also signs that the construction-led downturn is now spreading into other areas of the economy, with sectors such as manufacturing facing increased difficulties."


Mrs Foster said it was "important to keep these changes in perspective".

"While the latest figures showed a sharp contraction in employee jobs over the quarter, the fall was from an historic high and our unemployment rate was still the lowest of the UK regions," she said.

"It was also well below the European Union average."

The government also released details of the Labour Force Survey for the quarter from August to October.

It found the Northern Ireland unemployment rate was 4.3%, lower than the UK average of 6% and the Republic of Ireland's rate in September of 6.6%.

In 1984, when records of Northern Ireland's unemployment rate began, this figure was 16.8%.

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