JUST over a 1,000 people were claiming unemployment benefit in Larne during December, latest Government figures reveal.
The total of 1,007 comprised 717 men and 290 women, accounting for 5.5 per cent of the working-age population. It is just half-a-point over the Northern Ireland average, but masks a massive 26.5 per cent hike in unemployment in the borough in the past 12 months, explained in part by redundancies taking effect at FG Wilson.
The local rate was up by six per cent on November, equivalent to 57 more claimants, and there were 211 more jobless people in the borough in December than at the same time in 2011.
The Antiville, Ballyloran and Craigy Hill wards have the highest unemployment rates in the borough at between eight and 9.1 per cent. The ward with most claimants is Kilwaughter, although the 125 people out of work and claiming benefit make up just 3.9 per cent of the working-age population.
Ken Nelson, chief executive at local enterprise development company LEDCOM, outlined initiatives aimed at addressing rising unemployment.
“This latest rise in unemployment is very disappointing. The impact is being felt right across the community on individuals and their families,” he commented.
“Considerable efforts are being made by Larne Borough Council, the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL), Invest NI and LEDCOM to tackle the situation,” added Mr Nelson.
He cited as an example a major Larne Jobs and Opportunities Fair planned for Tuesday, February 19, between 2-6pm, in Larne Town Hall. “It will bring together a wide range of employers, training providers and recruitment agencies to help local people find new employment and training opportunities. This will be an excellent opportunity to find out about current and forthcoming job opportunities, as well as how to retrain and upskill for other areas of work,” Mr Nelson explained.
“DEL has a wide range of services to help people find work,” he added. “Supported by DEL and Larne Borough Council, LEDCOM is running a series of free Exploring Enterprise Programmes to help participants explore potential self-employment opportunities and gain new qualifications to enhance their employment prospects.
“The Regional Start programme, funded by Invest NI and delivered locally by LEDCOM, is now available in Larne for anyone wanting help to set up their own business. It provides free help and training with business plans.”
Mr Nelson acknowledged: “The situation is tough, but there is help available. I would encourage everyone to use it.“