Page last updated at 10:47 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 11:47 UK

Job seekers 'signing on' monthly

Jos seekers line up at a careers fair
New unemployment figures were released on Wednesday

Such is the pressure on benefits offices in Northern Ireland, job seekers now only have to 'sign on' once a month, it has emerged.

Previously people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) had to attend a benefits office fortnightly.

Meanwhile, the latest unemployment total for Northern Ireland now stands at 49,500, it was announced on Wednesday.

The figure represents an increase of 1,600 on the previous month.

However, the Northern Ireland seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (6.3%) remains below the UK average (7.6%) and was also lower than the European Union (8.6%) and Republic of Ireland (11.1%) rates.

Year on year, the number out of work in Northern Ireland has risen by 91%, which is higher than the overall UK increase (85.0%).

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said Northern Ireland was "continuing to experience the negative effect of the global downturn".

"But I am committed to doing whatever is possible to mitigate the effect of the global recession in Northern Ireland and to ensure businesses are well placed to take advantage of economic recovery when it comes."

Conflicting

Angela McGowan, Northern Bank Chief Economist, said there were conflicting signals in the jobs data.

"The claimant count measure of unemployment in June posted its smallest rise in eight months suggesting that job cuts may be starting to taper off," she said.

"However, one of the most worrying features of the latest report is the fact that there has been a year on year increase of 5.7% in the number of 18-24 year olds joining the ranks of the unemployed.

"Youth unemployment is something that needs to be handled very carefully as the effects of unemployment early on in a career can last much longer than people actually think."

Commenting on job seekers in Northern Ireland now only having to 'sign on' once a month, a Department for Employment and Learning spokesman said the arrangement was temporary for three months "in response to the impact of the economic downturn".

"The social security agency has mirrored these arrangements in the remaining 10 social security offices to ensure equality of treatment," he added.

Across the UK, unemployment rose by a record 281,000 to 2.38m in the three months to May.



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