Derry is beginning to feel the economic benefits of its City of Culture year, the local Chamber of Commerce president has said.

Philip Gilliland believes the latest employment statistics allied to the results of a new property survey show that, gradually, the local economy is starting to improve.

With unemployment in Derry falling by almost 3% last month and property vacancies in the city’s commercial heartland continuing to decrease, Philip Gilliland is buoyed by the “positive signs.”

“These are all very positive signs,” he said. “However, far more still needs to be done by us within the city and those from outside to get our economy fully functioning and to bring down the still terribly high unemployment figures.

“As the Chamber has repeatedly said, we need faster progress on the expansion of university provision in the city and an early start on our key transport projects, the Belfast and Dublin road connections.

“Those are the steps that will address and correct our weak economy and create long-term prosperity for the city as a whole.”

Turning to the property vacancy stats, which reveal that 16.4% of shops lie vacant in Derry - that’s a decrease of 2.3% on 2012 - Mr. Gilliland said: “This is likely to be a direct positive impact of City of Culture. Local property owners are to be congratulated for allowing, in many cases, previously vacant properties to be used as pop-up premises. Both the private and public sectors have invested in improving buildings in the city and the benefits of this are emerging.”

He added: “The City of Culture is clearly responsible for much of this - and we all have to put a lot of effort in to ensure the benefits continue beyond this year. The city must be marketed on a continuing basis.”