Foster Boosting Business to help tackle unemployment

Figures released today for the period June - August 2011 show that the Northern Ireland unemployment rate increased over the quarter to 7.6%.

More recent figures for September 2011 show that the number of unemployment benefit claimants increased by 500 from the previous month’s revised figure.

Output from the Northern Ireland Production sector fell by 4.1% from Q1 2011 to Q2 2011. The UK decreased by 1.2% over the same period.

Output from the Northern Ireland Index of Services for the second quarter of 2011 showed that output levels rose over the quarter by 0.6%, but were still down 4.0% compared to the same quarter one year earlier. This is the first quarter-on-quarter growth recorded in six quarters, whilst the UK has experienced quarter-on-quarter growth in four of the last six quarters.

Commenting on the figures, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: “The latest labour market figures record a further rise in unemployment levels throughout the UK. This is obviously disappointing news and there is clearly ongoing uncertainty in global economic and financial markets which is inhibiting recovery.

“This quarters decline in the production sector in Northern Ireland is only the second fall in output in the last eight quarters. However both the production and service sectors also remain well below their peak values.”

Arlene Foster continued: “It is clear from this month’s figures that, whilst our primary focus must remain on creating the higher value jobs that drive productivity and competitiveness, there remains a very real issue with getting people either back, or into, work.

“Invest Northern Ireland’s Short Term Employment Scheme is designed to do just that and, last month I was pleased to be able to announce that Capita is to create over 330 jobs through an investment which will help many families.

“The pipeline of projects is strong and I expect more announcements to be made in the coming weeks, from businesses large and small across Northern Ireland. However, we need to do more and, as part of Invest NI’s wider Boosting Business initiative, it has introduced a number of changes to encourage as many businesses as possible to take advantage of the support available.

“So, firstly, moving forward, the Short Term Employment Scheme will simply be known as The Jobs Fund, because that is exactly what it is – a ring-fenced £19m budget to support business owners to create the jobs that will tackle our current levels of unemployment.

“In order to encourage more applications from smaller businesses, we are introducing a slimmed down application process for offers of support up to £50,000 and introducing steps that will ensure that businesses which are able to create jobs, can receive the financial support earlier.

“So, whether a business owner can create two or two hundred jobs, the support is there.”