Figures released today showed a further drop in unemployment of 5,000 in Northern Ireland over the last three months, bringing the unemployment rate down to 7.3% as opposed to 7.7% for the UK as a whole. While some may take comfort from these figures, as this blog has pointed out before, the full suite of labour market indicators need to be taken into account.
Once again the drop in unemployment has been accompanied by a further decline in those economically active and an even larger increase in the numbers economically inactive. In fact there was a decline in the numbers employed of 1000 for Northern Ireland over the same period.
Once again, if people entering economic inactivity are doing so voluntarily, such as for early retirement or to care for their families, we need not be concerned. However if economic activity is discouraged workers leaving the workforce, we are merely re-categorizing an existing problem