Invest NI blames EU legislation after slowdown in jobs promotion
Invest NI has suffered a drop in the number of jobs it promotes here, blaming it on major EU legislation changes. It says it will have promoted more than 42,000 jobs by the end of April - from 2011 - beating a target of 41,000 outlined in the Programme for Government.
The taxpayer-funded agency is expecting to promote around 6,000 new jobs during the course of this financial year. That is down from 14,000 a year earlier.
Those are jobs which have been announced, but not yet created.
The agency has invested more than £2.8bn since 2011.
But the number of jobs promoted slowed in the six months to September.
That was partly due to a large pipeline of work last year, amid changes and tightening of EU rules on grants, which saw companies pushing through projects ahead of the introduction of the changes in June 2014. In 2014/15, Invest NI delivered its best results yet, with 9,410 jobs created.
Chief executive, Alastair Hamilton, addressed the enterprise committee yesterday morning. He said: "We have helped promote over 39,000 new jobs across Northern Ireland since 2011. This is against an original target of 25,000.
"Our revised target is now 41,000 and, with just six months to go, we are on track to exceed this too.
"These new jobs have been in a range of sectors including food, manufacturing, legal, business and financial services, and across every council area."
According to Invest NI, the agency has promoted some 50% of new jobs across small and medium-sized businesses, in the last six months.
Around four-fifths of total jobs, financial offers and planned investment were based outside Belfast.
Some of the major jobs outlined for Northern Ireland this year include 800 call centre roles at Teleperformance in Enniskillen, and 250 with Manchester firm Intelling. Invest NI has said the average cost per job promoted is now £5,300.
One of the areas which has seen improvement is exports - something Invest NI has fallen down on over the last few years.
It increased total exports to 4% for the period October 2014 to September 2015.
But that is still well behind the initial target of 20%. Exports have increased in a number of major markets, including a 5% rise in the US, 12% boost in Germany, and 85% rise in Australia.
Enterprise committee chairman, Patsy McGlone, said the two "major issues" Invest NI has to focus on are boosting exports, and helping spread jobs throughout Northern Ireland, "particularly west of the Bann".
The SDLP Mid-Ulster MLA added: "A lot of investment potential is going to the east ... not all, but it is heavily in that direction."
He also called for a more joined-up approach between Invest NI, tourism bodies and local councils in order to help attract investment.