Foster announces further measures to create employment

Figures released today for the period July – September 2011 show that the Northern Ireland unemployment rate remained unchanged over the quarter at 7.3%.

More recent figures for October 2011 show that the number of unemployment benefit claimants increased by 100 from the previous month’s revised figure.

Commenting on the figures, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: “The latest unemployment rate in Northern Ireland remained at 7.3%, a figure well below the equivalent rates for the UK (8.3%), European Union (9.5%) and Republic of Ireland (14.6%). However, I am very much aware that this will be of little consolation to those currently out of work in Northern Ireland, who have to deal with the stress and strain that unemployment places on family life.

“The Executive’s Programme for Government and Economic Strategy will set the direction for economic progress over the next few years.”

Arlene Foster continued: “In response to the challenging times that many businesses are currently facing, Invest Northern Ireland is promoting the wide range of support available through the Boosting Business initiative. Already, over 400 businesses have registered to attend the first series of ‘Focus on Finance’ seminars which will provide advice and guidance on managing cash flow, accessing finance and planning for the future.

“However, there is also an immediate need to maximise employment opportunities for those currently out of work across as wide a range of sectors as possible. Yesterday, at the official opening of Allen & Overy’s Belfast centre, we saw the tangible evidence of our efforts to attract high quality inward investment.

“Through, the Jobs Fund some 400 jobs have already been announced and projects intending to create a further 1,300 jobs have been approved, providing welcome opportunities for employment. In addition, we continue to build a pipeline of further projects.

“The Jobs Fund includes support for new business starts by residents of Neighbourhood Renewal Areas and by young people not in Employment, Education or Training, through which we expect to create more than 550 jobs by the end of March 2012. There will also be a new programme to accelerate business growth and employment grant support to specifically create new jobs across a range of sectors.

“It will also provide broader support for Social Enterprises and today, I can announce a further measure under the Jobs Fund, which we expect to create new jobs. Northern Ireland social enterprises already play a significant role in creating employment, promoting inclusion and creating sustainable communities.”

Social entrepreneurs set up businesses to address social problems, meet local community needs, or bring about social change, rather than solely for personal profit.

The Minister concluded: “Many Social Enterprises have considerable local impact, but there is no reason why these models cannot be taken and applied elsewhere.

“Through the Social Enterprise Franchising Programme (SEFP), to be delivered by Ortus, The Business Development Agency, a number of existing successful social enterprises will be supported to make their business models available to new social entrepreneurs. This will give them the chance to set up a business that will quickly begin to generate profits, social benefits and aid sustainability."