Derry men now almost twice jobless average

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood.
SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood.

The number of Derry people coming off the unemployment register over the past year is only a fraction of that across the north, it has emerged.

The Journal requested figures from the government after Invest Northern Ireland declared they had “promoted” over 1,000 jobs in Derry and Strabane in the past year.

An Invest NI spokeswoman said that “promoted” jobs involved those pledged or expected to be created over the coming years.

While Invest NI also said it has helped to support the creation of 970 new jobs in Derry and Strabane over the past three years, a spokeswoman for the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment said they did not keep figures for the number of jobs lost locally in that time.

The latest benefit claimant figures however show the number of people reliant upon unemployment benefit in Derry now stands at 8.2%- still the highest in Northern Ireland, and way above the average.

In the past year the overall number of unemployed people of working age in the north fell by 13.3%.

In Derry it fell by just 1.7%, with Strabane faring only marginally better at 2.7%.

This meant that in real terms the number of people taken off the unemployed register throughout the new Derry-Strabane Supercouncil was a mere 153 people over the course of the year, compared to much smaller areas like Armagh (334), Coleraine (482) and Newtonabbey (355).

The situation is particularly bleak for local men, with 11.8% in Derry claiming unemployment benefit- almost double the NI average of 6.6%.

Invest NI confirmed to the Journal that in 2013/14, they made offers totalling almost £7.3million of assistance to companies in the new Derry-Strabane supercouncil area.

Over that year, Invest NI also claimed to have “promoted 1,085 new jobs in the new Derry-Strabane super council area”, adding that this was “up 70% on the previous 12 months period.”

Over half of the jobs promoted, according to the company, were as a result of assistance to foreign firms who have promised jobs for the north west. Almost 400 local start-up businesses also received Invest NI support.

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood said that the latest claimant levels for Derry were bleak and needed addressing.

“These figures illustrate once again that Derry is facing serious economic difficulties and the Executive, Invest NI seem ambivalent to this. They constantly tell us they are working very hard to deliver for Derry and the North West on the economic promise since the Peace Process, but every time these figures are released Derry is at the wrong end of the league table.”

Mr Eastwood said questions had been repeatedly put to the government over disparities in job distribution, type of jobs created and pay scales.

“We need answers to these,” he warned.