Foster encouraged by fall in unemployment rate
Figures released today for the period August - October 2011 show that the Northern Ireland unemployment rate fell over the quarter from 7.4% to 6.9%.
Commenting on the figures, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: “It was encouraging to note the fall in the Northern Ireland unemployment rate during the latest quarter. Our rate of 6.9% now compares very favourably to the equivalent rates for the European Union (9.7%) and Republic of Ireland (14.2%).
“The employee jobs results for the third quarter of 2011 were not as positive, with an overall decline of 750 jobs over the quarter. This decrease was driven by a fall in public sector jobs. However, it was noteworthy that there was an increase of 1,120 private sector jobs during the quarter.
“Private sector jobs have now increased in two of the last three quarters, after a prolonged period of decline. While this increase is not particularly marked, the change in direction is welcome. There remains considerable uncertainty in European and global markets, but a strategy that seeks to grow the private sector remains the best way forward.”
To help strengthen Northern Ireland’s economic recovery, arrangements are currently being finalised for a £50m Loan Fund, to specifically aid liquidity in SMEs. This will become part of a wider £100m Access to Capital strategy.
In conjunction with Invest Northern Ireland’s recently launched Boosting Business initiative this will help provide local businesses with the support they need to address the wide range of issues they currently face.
Arlene Foster continued: “Already there have been over 1,200 direct approaches by local businesses to Invest NI, seeking support and guidance on a wide range of business issues.
“Alongside new measures to help our companies to grow their exports, last week an Intellectual Property (IP) starter pack was launched along with enhanced IP support. This was introduced along with a number of new measures, specifically to encourage more SMEs to undertake R&D activity for the first time.”
Referring to Invest NI’s recent ‘Focus on Finance’ seminars the Minister said: “Over 300 businesses, many from outside Invest NI’s traditional customer base, attended the first series of seminars, where they were able to obtain one day training and follow-on mentoring support. These events were so successful that we are planning further seminars for January.”
Further information on the support available through Invest NI’s Boosting Business initiative can be found at http://www.boostingbusinessni.com or by telephoning 0800 181 4422.