650 jobs boost kick-starts economy
Northern Ireland's stalled economy has been given a kickstart with the creation of 650 new software posts - the second biggest jobs boost since devolution was restored in 2007.
US technology company Allstate, which already employs 1,900 people, said it planned to expand its workforce at three locations in Belfast, Londonderry and Strabane.
The high end software development, software testing, infrastructure services and analytics jobs will have an average annual salary of around £30,000.
The unemployment rate in Northern Ireland currently stands at 8.4% - with 64,800 claiming job seekers benefits - above the UK average of 7.9%.
According to the latest statistics from the Department of Enterprise, 8.1% (14,090) of the Belfast population were out of work while in Derry the unemployed rate was 8.6% (6,107) and in Strabane the figure was 7.4% (1,886).
First Minister Peter Robinson, speaking at Allstate's offices in Belfast city centre, said: "We are really excited by the announcement. It is a massive contribution to the Northern Ireland economy and providing much needed jobs to the people of Northern Ireland.
"This is the sixth investment by Allstate which shows we have a product here - if we can get people into Northern Ireland and they taste and see what we have they come back again and again. It is very welcome - not just because it is 650 jobs but, 650 very good jobs and not only in Belfast but also out in Strabane and Londonderry as well."
This latest announcement takes to over 1,000 the number of jobs created in Northern Ireland over the past week. Invest Northern Ireland has contributed just over £4.5 million of support towards the Allstate expansion which will deliver £20 million in additional salaries. Almost 200 of the posts have already been filled while the remaining 450 will be recruited by 2016.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "This is great news for Belfast, Derry and Strabane and clearly provides proof, if proof were needed, that we have not just the people but the skills and we have the technology to service the needs of a very large company involved in financial services like Allstate. It is tremendous good news and on top of the other announcements - this is what it is all about,"
The new jobs will make Allstate one of the largest companies in Northern Ireland with 2,600 employees.