Page last updated at 09:02 GMT, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 10:02 UK

NI jobless figures 'being spun'

Job seekers line up at a careers fair

By Kevin Magee
BBC Northern Ireland business correspondent

The trade union movement has accused the government of spinning Northern Ireland's unemployment figures.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions said the government should "come clean" on the real extent of the jobless problem.

In its monthly figures, the government tends to concentrate on one measure of unemployment that shows the NI rate as among the lowest regions in the UK.

The Department of Enterprise rejected the trade union claims and said its statistics are presented transparently.

In terms of rising unemployment, Northern Ireland is one of the worst regions in the UK, ahead of Scotland and Wales.

These figures are not fully explained in the government's monthly press release on unemployment levels.

The Minister for Investment, Trade and Enterprise, Arlene Foster, ought to be more upfront with the details of the downturn
Peter Bunting
Trade unionist

On top of the official headline jobless figure of 52,700, almost as many people again are not on the unemployment register but would like to work.

According to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, this brings the total number in Northern Ireland seeking jobs to just over 100,000 which is almost double the official figure.

Trade unionist Peter Bunting accused policy makers of "spinning the statistics."

Mr Bunting said the rate of youth unemployment was one of the highest in the UK, a figure which he said was mitigated by having more than 15,000 people aged under 25 in training schemes.

At the same time, he said Department of Enterprise press releases constantly highlighted that unemployment in Northern Ireland was the "second lowest" of the UK's regions.

'Crisis levels'

He said these statistics taken from the monthly Labour Force Survey deserved equal billing with the headline unemployment figure.

"The message seems to be that the situation is bad, but not as bad as in the Republic of Ireland or in other regions of the UK," he said.

"The Minister for Investment, Trade and Enterprise, Arlene Foster, ought to be more upfront with the details of the downturn.

"Spinning the statistics may make some policy-makers feel better, but the facts are that unemployment is at crisis levels, particularly in the manufacturing, construction and retail sectors.

"The trade union movement is not saying that there are quick fixes for the unemployment situation in Northern Ireland.

"We are saying, however, that unless and until we can face the real extent of unemployment, then we cannot be serious about finding workable solutions which will deliver jobs and prosperity."

A Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment spokesperson said official unemployment figures are produced in line with the International Labour Office's (ILO) recommendations and definitions.

"This ensures that the official NI Labour Force Survey (LFS) measure of unemployment is consistent with international standards and is produced in a transparent and objective manner," the spokesperson added.

"Unemployment statistics issued by DETI are also produced to National Statistics standards, which promote the integrity and independence of official statistics."

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