Before I respond to Deputy Browne's question, I would also like to pay tribute to Deputy Kelleher, with whom I have served in this House for the past 17 years. Deputy Kelleher previously served in my office as Minister of State with responsibility for commerce and trade, where I know he was very popular with all of the staff. I understand some of my staff worked with him during his tenure as Minister of State. I wish the Minister of State at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation well in his new role. It is an important role. Our future emanates from Europe and our MEPs have a lot of important work to do over the next five years. The Deputy's experience in this House will stand to him as he takes on his new role in the European Parliament. I wish him well.
In regard to Deputy Browne's question, enterprise development and sustainable job creation in the regions is a key priority of the Government. A total of 18,300 more people in the south east are in employment in quarter 1 2019 than there were in quarter 1 2015 when the regional action plan for jobs initiative was launched. Unemployment has reduced from 11.7% to 6.7% in the same period. The State average figure at quarter 1 2019 is 4.8%.
While we have had great success through the Action Plan for Jobs in reducing unemployment, in the context of Brexit and other global challenges, it is important that we move our focus to the creation of quality and sustainable jobs. In this context, the Deputy has raised an important question. Future Jobs Ireland is our plan to meet these challenges. Launched last March, it includes ambitious targets and actions to drive the transformation of our economy.
In the south east, there were 15,580 people employed across 76 IDA Ireland client companies in 2018, an increase of almost 7% on 2017. The IDA will continue to work with its clients to identify opportunities for new investment or expansion in the south east, promoting the region's strengths, including its ports and existing concentrations of financial services, IT and high-value manufacturing activities.
In 2018, there were 25,214 people employed in Enterprise Ireland, EI, supported companies in the south east, an increase of 5% over 2017. Earlier this week, the Minister launched Enterprise Ireland's new regional plan, Powering the Regions, which sets out the focus of its activities in each region, including the south east.
The Government remains committed to achieving an overall jobs uplift of between 10% and 15% in each region by the end 2020, from quarter 1 2015, and to bring and-or maintain unemployment levels in each region to within at least one percentage point of the State average. To this end, we recently launched nine new regional enterprise plans to 2020, which build on the strong progress made on employment creation under the Regional Action Plan for Jobs 2015-2017. Last March, we launched the south east plan, which covers counties Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford in Waterford, with strategic objectives focused on building enterprise resilience, marketing the region, a regional engagement strategy on key infrastructure priorities, ensuring the south east is a learning region, and tourism growth.