WITH by far the biggest rise in jobless in Northern Ireland during the past year, Larne merits urgent Government action, an MLA has urged.
Quoting the borough’s 25.5 per cent spike in unemployment, Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs Jnr said he will press the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment to back for local employers and encourage inward investment in new jobs.
Speaking in the Assembly, Mr Beggs asked Alliance Minister for Employment and Learning, Stephen Farry, to outline measures he had introduced to address unemployment in East Antrim following the significant local job losses.
In reply, the range of schemes and services offered by Jobs and Benefits Offices in the area were listed, including the Steps To Work and Pathways to Work programmes. Under the Collaboration and Innovation Fund, just under £4 million had been allocated to eight organisations, to help 1,500 unemployed young people from Greater Belfast and East Antrim to get into further education, employment or training.
The minister also referred to the recent jobs fair co-hosted by Larne Borough Council and LEDCOM in the town hall and claimed that between April and December last year the Employment Service helped 1,250 people find employment in East Antrim - “twenty-two per cent above target for the period”.
Mr Beggs said: “I congratulate all those involved in putting together the Jobs and Opportunities Fair at Larne town hall. The feedback I have received is very positive and the fact that over 350 people came through the doors says that the event was very much needed.”
He added, however: “The hard facts are that there has been an increase of 25.5 per cent in the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits in the borough of Larne over the past year.
“That equates to 222 Larne residents who were in gainful employment this time last year, but who are now seeking re-employment.
“This is the highest increase anywhere in Northern Ireland. We need more employment opportunities in East Antrim. I shall continue to press the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to support local employers and to encourage new employers into East Antrim.”
Government statistics show that January’s unemployment benefit claimant count in Larne stood at 1,093, or 5.4 per cent of the working-age population - 86 more people than in December and 222 more than in January, 2012. The 25.5 per cent rise was easily the biggest in Northern Ireland, dwarfing the 5.9 per cent provincial average.
Government figures also reveal there were 330 redundancies locally in the year to January 31, 2013 compared with nine in the previous 12 months. The biggest contributing factor was the programme of redundancies at FG Wilson.