Commenting on the latest figures, Danske Bank Economist Conor Lambe said:
“The latest Northern Ireland labour market data did contain some encouraging news as it indicated that the unemployment rate fell, both over the quarter and over the year, to 5.4 per cent during February – April 2017. The number of people claiming unemployment related benefits also fell in May for the fourteenth month in a row.
“However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Northern Ireland labour market as the employment rate decreased over the quarter and the year. Economic inactivity also remains very much in the spotlight, particularly as the data indicated that the quarterly rise in the inactivity rate was the biggest since 2009. More people becoming economically inactive suggests that the local labour market continues to face some challenges.
“Turning to the national data, over the year to February – April 2017, real regular earnings for employees in Great Britain declined by 0.6 per cent. While salaries are increasing in cash terms, prices are rising at a faster rate. This is the latest in a series of economic data that shows that the consumer is being squeezed. A similar picture is likely being reflected in Northern Ireland.
“If inflation moves up even further, then real earnings growth is likely to come under increasing pressure and households will feel an even greater pinch.”