Rise in local jobless total

THE number of local people out of work and claiming benefits rose by 1.6 per cent last month - disappointing news after government figures for March showed the first drop in the numbers joining the dole queue for several months.

According to the Department of Employment’s latest Labour Market Report, the borough’s jobless total stood at 2,317 during April - 1,649 men and 668 women. That represented an increase of 37 people from the previous month, and a rise of 6.5 per cent over the past year.

The percentage of Newtownabbey’s working age population out of work and claiming unemployment benefit now stands at 4.4 per cent - the ninth lowest figure of Northern Ireland’s 26 council areas.

Across Northern Ireland, the number of people claiming unemployment benefit rose to 62,500 during April. However, the province’s unemployment rate (6.7 per cent) remains below the UK (8.2 per cent) and European Union (10.2 per cent) averages.

Commenting on the figures, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: “Throughout Northern Ireland there are many positive signs of businesses adapting to the challenging environment and increasingly looking beyond our traditional markets for export opportunities. Our long-term goal is to develop a strong, vibrant private sector that can compete internationally and which can provide prosperity and employment opportunities for all.

“We will remain focused on providing the necessary support and assistance to help stimulate private sector growth, prosperity and job creation for Northern Ireland.”