Business development · 15 September 2016

Northern Ireland job growth the result of small business success

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Privately owned business in Northern Ireland now employ more workers than the public sector and large companies combined.

The unemployment rate in Northern Ireland is at its lowest since 2009, according to new figures from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), thanks in large part to small business growth in the country.

The rate of those out of work in Northern Ireland now sits at 5.4 per cent, a drop of 0.7 per cent in the last 12 months.

Recent data from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) showed that small businesses account for 99.9 per cent of all firms in Northern Ireland, providing employment for around 347,000 people. Smaller privately owned businesses were also reported to be employing more workers than the public sector and large companies combined.

Commenting on the rise in employment, FSB policy chair for Northern Ireland, Wilfred Mitchell, championed the role that the small business sector played in the growth of jobs, and highlighted the importance of small firms have for the local economy.

“The Northern Ireland Executive needs to consider that 95 per cent of small businesses have no intention to move from the local area that they are located within,” said Mitchell.

Northern Ireland economy minister Simon Hamilton said of the drop in unemployment: “The increase in employee jobs and the increase in the employment rate is hugely encouraging and a further sign that our economy is heading in the right direction.”

The entrepreneurial community in Northern Ireland has received a boost in recent years from the growth of startup incubator hubs and research and development centres such as that located at the Northern Ireland Science Park.

A recently announced partnership deal between Catalyst Inc – the owner and operator of the Science Park – and major high street lender Barclays, will see the bank invest in high growth businesses within the hub, providing entrepreneurs with access to expert advice and grant opportunities under Barclays’ High Growth and Entrepreneurs initiative.

Commenting on the announcement of the sponsorship deal, Steve Orr, director of Connect – a non-profit organisation at Catalyst Inc that supports innovative businesses  – claimed that partnering with Barclays will help Northern Ireland become “one of the most entrepreneurial economies in Europe by 2030”.

He added: “We believe that the talent and ambition of entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland has the power to change the world.”

The Northern Ireland Science Park was rebranded by Catalyst Inc in June 2016 as part of a new £100m business plan seeking to create 5,000 jobs in the country over the next ten years.

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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