Enterprise development and sustainable job creation in the regions is a key policy priority of this Government. A total of 20,900 more people in the south east are in employment in 2019 than in 2015 when the Regional Action Plan for Jobs started and unemployment in the south east has reduced from 11.7% to 7.3% in the same period.
Although we have had very good success through the Regional Action Plan for Jobs in reducing unemployment, in the context of Brexit and other global challenges we also need to focus on the creation of quality and sustainable jobs in the area. Future Jobs Ireland, launched earlier this year, is our plan to meet these challenges. It includes ambitious targets and actions to drive this transformation of our economy.
The Minister and I launched the south-east regional enterprise plan last March, with strategic objectives focused on building enterprise resilience, marketing the region, a regional engagement strategy on key infrastructure priorities, ensuring that the south east is a learning region and an area of tourism growth. The plan has commenced implementation, led by the regional steering committee, involving the local authorities, enterprise agencies, local enterprise offices, tourism bodies, higher education institutions, education and training boards and others.
In the south east, there were 15,580 people employed across 76 IDA Ireland client companies in 2018. This was an increase of almost 7% on 2017. IDA Ireland will continue to work to identify opportunities for new investment or expansion in the south east, promoting the region's existing concentrations of pharmaceuticals, medical technology, financial services, agricultural technology and high value manufacturing activities.
In 2018, there were 25,214 people employed in Enterprise Ireland-supported companies in the south east, up 5% from 2017. Powering the Regions is Enterprise Ireland's new regional plan and it sets out the focus of its activities regionally, including for the south east. There was a net increase of 293 jobs supported by the five south-east local enterprise offices during 2018.