Belfast City Center

A leading trade union representative in Northern Ireland, Peter Bunting, claims that as many as 30,000 public sector jobs could be lost in the next few months and even more jobs will go in the private sector.

Bunting, assistant secretary general of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) told the Sunday Business Post that Northern Ireland is on the "verge of the abyss."

He said the North could be facing a ten-year period of deflation and joblessness.

‘‘Unemployment in Northern Ireland is becoming a massive crisis," said Bunting.

His comments are on the back of figures released in early August that showed an additional 800 people had signed on to the unemployment register in July; the largest addition since January.

‘‘In most of the UK regions, numbers on the dole have started to drop off, but in Northern Ireland the opposite seems to be happening," said Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey.

The UK have recorded its sixth consecutive monthly drop in the number of people requiring government benefits.

‘‘There hasn’t been an improvement in the underlying fundamentals in the economy since the credit crunch and that’s why we are not seeing any improvement on the jobs front,' said Ramsey citing the crash in the construction industry as a major factor in the rising unemployment rates.

‘‘There hasn’t really been any recovery at all here. In terms of the double-dip recession we haven’t even come up for air yet to go back under," said Ramsey.

‘‘The public expenditure cuts are only starting to filter through.

Ramsey estimates an additional 70,000 job losses in Northern Ireland in the next 18 months.

Looking at the October round of spending cuts, Bunting told the Sunday Business Post that even more jobs could be lost.

‘‘If the cuts are implemented as currently proposed, then they will have a massive impact on local jobs," said Bunting.

Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre (BURC), a drop-in support office near the city centre, has seen a marked increase in the numbers of jobless looking for advice. ‘‘We’re getting more and more phone calls every day.

"There are just no jobs out there at the moment," said BURC’s Barrie McLatchie.

The North’s unemployment rate of 6.6 per cent remains low compared to the Republic of Ireland and Britain.

However, the headline figures mask a disproportionately large number of economically inactive people.