Commenting on the figures, Danske Bank Economist Conor Lambe said:
“Today’s data showed that the unemployment rate in Northern Ireland did not change between the last quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, but the employment rate fell and the inactivity rate increased.
“The quarterly fall in the employment rate of 1.5 percentage points and the quarterly rise in the inactivity rate of 1.6 percentage points both represent quite large movements. However, these changes are from a relatively high employment rate and low inactivity rate in the fourth quarter of 2016.
“One thing this data does emphasise is the challenge posed to the Northern Ireland economy by economic inactivity. Northern Ireland’s economic inactivity rate is the highest of the twelve UK regions. This represents an underutilisation of resources, particularly given that 22 per cent of the working-age inactive would like to have a job. Helping these people to move into employment needs to remain a key policy objective in Northern Ireland.”
This comment was published in response to the January - March 2017 Northern Ireland labour market data published by NISRA on 17th May 2017.