THE number of local people out of work and claiming benefits decreased slightly again during December - the second drop in as many months.
According to the Department of Employment’s latest Monthly Labour Market Report, the borough’s jobless figure now stands at 2,033 - 1,509 men and 524 women. That represents a drop of 0.2 per cent from the previous month, but an increase of 112 (5.8 per cent) over the past year.
The percentage of the borough’s working age population out of work and claiming unemployment benefit still stands at 3.8 per cent - the sixth lowest figure of Northern Ireland’s 26 local council areas.
The figures for each individual parliamentary constituency show that in South Antrim there are 2,311 people out of work and claiming unemployment benefits - a rise of 3.9 per cent over the past year. However, the percentage of the area’s working age population in the dole queue is just 3.3 per cent - the joint lowest figure among Northern Ireland’s 18 constituencies.
In East Antrim the jobless total stood at 2,729 during December - 4.8 per cent of the working age population, but a drop of 1.1 per cent over the past 12 months.
The statistics reveal that in North Belfast the number of people out of work and claiming unemployment benefits is 3,551 - 6.9 per cent of the working age population. That represents a 9.6 per cent increase in the constituency’s jobless total over the past year.
Commenting on the rise in unemployment in his constituency, North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said: “It is disappointing that unemployment has risen in North Belfast. The current economic downturn has had a widespread effect on business activity and on government spending. This has reduced recruitment levels as spending cuts have had to be made. The outworking of this is that there is greater competition for those jobs vacancies which do become available. The human effect of unemployment is one of great difficulty for individuals and families and welfare support must be maintained as they seek employment.
“I am continuing to press for government support to stimulate recovery in the Northern Ireland economy, particularly for the growth of our private business sector. Banks have a key role to play in supporting businesses through this period and making finance available to stimulate economic growth.”
Meanwhile, South Antrim MLA Trevor Clarke said that he is “deeply concerned over the availability of jobs”, and fears that the recent cuts made by politicians in London could see even more people unemployed.
“It is always worrying to see the unemployment rate go up and I feel for those who have lost jobs, especially over Christmas.
“I fear that the cuts made by the government and effective from April this year could in fact make matters worse and hinder our economic recovery,” he added.
Across Northern Ireland, the figures for September - November recorded another increase in the overall unemployment rate to 7.8 per cent.
However, the Northern Ireland figure remains below the UK (7.9 per cent) and European Union (9.6 per cent) averages.