'We need plan to curb emigration'
The Executive has faced a call to develop a strategy to stop soaring numbers of people leaving Northern Ireland.
Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff told Finance Minister Simon Hamilton there was a need to act in the wake of figures released last week indicating that more than 25,000 people migrated from the region last year.
"This figure is higher than at any other time during the conflict," the West Tyrone member said during Assembly question time.
"Will the minister and his department recommend to the executive the development of a strategy to tackle emigration?"
Mr Hamilton acknowledged Mr McElduff's concerns but said more analysis of the figures was needed.
"To see if that movement out of Northern Ireland was perceived as in some ways forced because of a lack of labour opportunities or whether it was more out of choice to avail of opportunities economically or in education that were presented to those people," he said
Mr Hamilton said growing the regional economy would be vitally important in stopping the exodus.
"Improving economic conditions are key to ensuring that people who are migrating out of Northern Ireland for labour opportunities or indeed young people who are unemployed can get the opportunities," he said.
The minister added: "I hope with our economy growing by 2.6% (last year) and projected to grow by higher than that this year, with unemployment continuing to fall, with investment by indigenous companies such as First Derivatives (Newry-based firm who announced 484 new jobs today) and indeed others, that there are going to be opportunities, so the migration perhaps we have seen, particularly in some parts of Northern Ireland, is a thing of the past."