John Stewart, Ulster Unionist Party candidate for East Antrim in the General Election, has expressed concern at the latest labour market statistics published today for Northern Ireland.
John Stewart said:
“Careful reading of the latest quarterly labour market figures for Northern Ireland suggest structural weaknesses in the economy which government needs to get to grips with. The 5.3% unemployment figure may be a low, eye catching headline figure, but at the same time the 27.7% economic inactivity rate has increased by the highest amount since this measure was first recorded in 1995. Also the employment rate, which measures people in work, has decreased with falls in full-time and part-time employment outweighing rises in self- employment.
“For the last two years the Ulster Unionist Party has argued that there needs to be a dedicated manufacturing strategy for Northern Ireland, to respond to the significant job losses announced by some of our major private sector employers in Northern Ireland. We were rebuffed by the main partners in the Stormont Executive and our proposals for a manufacturing strategy was voted down by both Sinn Fein and the DUP in the Assembly.
“These new official figures, which show statistically significant increases in the economic inactivity rate and decreases in the employment rate, suggests that the complacency exhibited by the Stormont Executive was badly misplaced. Yes, the NI unemployment rate at 5.3% is historically low, being 1.3% below the Republic of Ireland, but it is above the UK average of 4.6%. What we need is a return to stable, devolved government at Stormont with a focused economic policy which will dovetail with the green paper on the UK Industrial Strategy recently published at Westminster.”