Page last updated at 12:57 GMT, Wednesday, 21 April 2010 13:57 UK

Another rise in Northern Ireland unemployment rate

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The number of people unemployed in NI rose in March

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit in Northern Ireland rose again in March.

The number claiming jobless benefits was 55,900, a rise of 300 on the previous month.

Northern Ireland was the only region of the UK to record a rise in the number of people claiming jobless benefits.

The number of people claiming is up 11,400 or 26% on this time last year, the highest annual rise of any UK region.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment also uses another method to measure quarterly unemployment.

The Labour Force Survey takes a representative sample by asking households about their status.

It suggests that the NI rate of unemployment between December and February was 6.4%, down 0.5% from the previous quarter, but up from 5.9% for the previous year.

The survey is used to give a comparative rate across the European Union, because methods of claiming benefits differ between nations.

It suggests that NI is below the rate in the UK, 8%, the Irish Republic, 13.8%, and the wider European Union, 9.5%.

The Labour Force Survey also suggests that the current rate of economic inactivity in Northern Ireland is 27.2%.

Northern Ireland's rate of economic inactivity, defined by those who are not in employment but are not actively seeking jobs, is the highest in the UK, 5.7% more than the nationwide average.

Northern Bank Chief Economist Angela McGowan said the rate of job shedding seen in the early part of the recession has tapered off but "we are still not out of the woods yet when it comes to the labour market."

"An expected cull in public sector jobs is expected further down the line and long-term unemployment continues to rise and is now sitting at 41.4 per cent," she said.

"Northern Ireland urgently needs an economic strategy that will ensure a smooth transition from our public sector dependency to an enterprise-based economy.

"Planning now for what we know is around the corner will make an enormous difference to our labour market in the years ahead."

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