SDLP MLA Mark H. Durkan has reacted angrily to new out-of-work figures that show Derry’s unemployed labour rate is now one-and-a-half times that of Belfast’s - which has the second worst rate in the North.
New ‘experimental’ statistics that measure the number of Job Seeker Allowance (JSA) claimants and those Universal Credit (UC) recipients claiming principally because they were unemployed, showed that in June, 4.6 per cent of working-age people in Derry and Strabane were reliant on pay-outs.
In Belfast, by contrast, the rate was 3.1 per cent, which was still poor when compared with districts like Lisburn and Castlereagh, for example, were the rate was just 1.3 per cent - three-and-a-half times smaller than Derry’s.
Mr. Durkan said it was difficult, in this context, to hear from across the Irish Sea that unemployment rates have apparently reached a new 40 year low, particularly, given the massive claimant rates in some wards of his home town.
While Derry and Strabane’s headline rate was 4.6 per cent the top ten worst rates in Derry for June 2018 were in The Diamond (11.6%), Strand (8.4%), Shantallow East (8.3%), Rosemount (8.2%), Ebrington (7.8%), Creggan South (7.6%), Brandywell (7.4%), Creggan Central (7%) and Carnhill (6.5%).
Mr. Durkan remarked: “Whilst the UK is seeing the lowest rates of unemployment since 1975, this does not reflect the current situation in Northern Ireland.
“It was only last year that Foyle was designated one of the UK’s ‘jobless blackspots;’ with the number of people here on long-term unemployment standing at three times the UK average.”
Mr. Durkan said chronic joblessness was a serious concern for him, not only from an economic perspective, but in his role as SDLP health spokesman,
“The economic neglect of Derry, in particular, is undoubtedly linked to deep-rooted issues within the city- the lack of investment, unemployment, addiction, ill health and lack of services are all intertwined. Job creation here has the potential to solve a myriad of other issues,” he suggested.
Mr. Durkan said he hoped a successful ‘City Deal’ application by Derry City and Strabane District Council (DC&SDC) would be a means of addressing the economic neglect of Derry.
“The stark reality is that Northern Ireland has been left behind. This is why a ‘City Deal’, which the SDLP has championed from its conception, is crucial to help rebalance the economy, address the high levels of deprivation and build a better future for our city.”