THE number of people out of work in Northern Ireland has hit a 15-year high, according to figures out on Wednesday.
The unemployment rate now as stands at 8.5 per cent in Northern Ireland – its highest since before the Good Friday Agreement was signed 15 years ago
And the unemployment rate among young people is the higahest in the UK.
The figures revealed that 23.8 per cent of young people aged 18-24 jumps are out of work – almost 1 in 4.
The disturbing figures come as Chancellor George Osborne delivers his budget speech at lunchtime in the House of Commons.
Nationally, the unemployment rate was also up and inflation had also risen to 2.7 per cent.
In Februay, it was revealed that almost 60 cent have been unemployed for a year or more – a rise of nearly 20 per cent on 2011.
According to the Labour Force Survey figures, the rate for the period from October to December 2012 was 7.8%, up by 0.2 percentage points from the previous quarter.
However, those claiming the dole in the province in January was the same for December, 65,000.
This is despite the fact that the UK figure fell by 0.8%.
Of 65,000 unemployed, 58.9% have been without a job for a year or more, which is an increase of 18.6% on last year.
The number of people claiming unemployment- related benefits in Northern Ireland is the second highest among the twelve UK regions.