Foster comments on latest labour market and economic output figures

Figures released today for the period June - August 2012 show that the Northern Ireland unemployment rate was up 1.2 percentage points over the quarter at 8.1%.

More recent figures for September 2012 show that the number of unemployment benefit claimants increased by 200 from the previous month’s revised figure.

Commenting on the figures, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: “The increase in the unemployment rate and the claimant count is, as always, disappointing. It continues to highlight the challenges faced by the Northern Ireland labour market.

“Over the quarter, provisional results from the Index of Services reported a fall of 1% in real terms in output for Northern Ireland whilst the latest provisional results from the Index of Production demonstrate a five per cent fall in real terms over the quarter. However, I note that despite the poor performance this quarter, the NI production sector still continued to perform better than the UK over the year."

Arlene Foster continued: “Northern Ireland is a small open economy and we cannot expect to remain unaffected by the continued uncertainty in markets around the world. In the face of these challenges, it is important that local businesses continue to look for export opportunities in the wider global economy.

“I believe there is still significant demand for our products and skills overseas that can help create the jobs we need to drive expansion at home.

“Next month Invest Northern Ireland is leading a trade mission to China and the Hong Kong area with almost 30 companies participating. A further 15 Northern Ireland companies will be exhibition or visiting the Food Hotel China exhibition in Shanghai to showcase the high quality of our local food industry products. Invest NI trade advisors based there will continue to provide a valuable resource for Northern Ireland businesses seeking to gain a foothold in this strategically important region for our economy."

The Minister concluded: “I am also ensuring that support is provided directly to existing local businesses and to those developing new businesses. Through Invest NI’s Regional Start Initiative, delivered by Enterprise Northern Ireland, up to 5,000 business starts will be supported in the next two years. By supporting the entrepreneurial skills of these new firms with specialist advice we are continuing to support the private sector economy.”