Jobless figures ‘prove case for intervention’

Looking for work.... A higher per centage of people in Derry unemployed compared to the rest of the north. (Rui Vieira/PA Wire)
Looking for work.... A higher per centage of people in Derry unemployed compared to the rest of the north. (Rui Vieira/PA Wire)

The number of people surviving on unemployment benefits locally is more than double the Northern Ireland average, new figures have revealed .

The figures for September 2018 confirm that Derry re- mains the north’s unemployment blackspot, with 5.1 per cent of people in the Foyle constituency claiming out of work benefits.

Job Centre. (Photo Philip Toscano/PA Wire)

Job Centre. (Photo Philip Toscano/PA Wire)

The claimant counts for September, 2018, show that in Foyle, over 2,100 men and almost 1,300 women had to claim Job Seekers Allowance or out of work Universal Credit last month.

This equates to 6.7 per cent of men and 3.7 per cent of women here, compared to a Northern Ireland average of 3.1 per cent of men and 1.7 per cent of women.

More than one in 20 people of working age in Derry (5.1 per cent) are claiming unemployment benefits, well ahead of any other parliamentary constituency in the North, with North and West Belfast coming in joint second highest at 3.7 per cent.

The figures for last month reveal that the Diamond ward in Derry has the highest per centage of claimants anywhere in Northern Ireland at 11 per cent.

The statistics relate to people aged 16 to 64 who are eligible for work and does not take into account those who cannot work due to illness or other reasons. Across the North, the economic inactivity rate for June to August, 2018 stood at 27.5 per cent of the population, but it is known to be considerably higher in the local council area.

Reacting to the figures yesterday, SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan said as such, the unemployment claimant figures , bad as they were, only showed part of the full picture here, adding that they made a “compelling case” for government intervention and a City Deal for the region.

Sinn Fein Foyle MLA Karen Mullan said that while there had been some very welcome major jobs announcements for Derry over recent months, there was still a legacy of disparity that needed to be redressed.

After the Diamond ward, the next highest wards in terms of levels of unemployed claimants living there were Strand (8.6 pc), Shantallow East (8.5 pc), Creggan South (8.5 pc) Rosemount (8 pc), Ebrington (7.5 pc) and Creggan Central (7.3 pc).

The figures were released with the NI Statistics and Research Agency’s October 2018 Labour Market report and showed that the Ballynashallog ward neighbouring the Greater Shantallow area had the lowest level of claimants at 1.6pc, followed by Eglinton (2pc), Hollymount (2.1pc), Banagher (2.2pc), Claudy (2.5pc), Pennyburn (2.6pc), Enagh (2.9pc), Kilfennan (3.2p.c) Newbuildings (3.3pc) and Culmore (3.7pc).

At the other end of the scale, wards above the 5.1pc city average included Beechwood (6.3pc), Carnhill (6.5pc), Caw (5.2pc), Springtown (5.2pc), Victoria (6.1pc) and Westland (6.8pc).

Mr Durkan said: “The figures make a compelling case and have done for many years, of the need for government intervention in terms of creating employment and assisting with the ambitions of others to create employment.

“These are unemployment figures and the economic inactivity figures are higher again. For a couple of years we have been hearing about the unemployment rate coming down but that does not include people on zero hour contracts working zero hours. They don’t tell the full story.
“It is absolutely incumbent on Westminster to recognise that and do something about it. Negotiations around the City Deal are ongoing and given were we are on this unemployment table, it shows where the intervention should be,”

Bringing jobs and investment to the north west has been a key focus for partnership work locally over recent years, which has culminated in the publication of an ambitious new Strategic Growth Plan. The blueprint sets out how 15,000 new jobs could be created by 2032 and Ms. Mullan said it would also largely shape the future for the area should City Deal bid prove successful.

She said: “Over the last number of weeks and months we have seen quite a significant number of new jobs but there is a lot more needed as we have quite a legacy to get over.

“Looking at the region, we are seeking a City Deal, complimented by investment from the government in the south. There needs to be that collective approach and collaboration. There is plenty more to be done as these figures tell us, but we have really good leadership in both councils, the University, the Regional Colleges, all working towards the one plan and lobbying together.”