A Northern Ireland software company that supplies services to major financial institutions said on Wednesday it was creating 360 new jobs, a rare piece of good news in an economy squeezed by public services cuts.

First Derivatives, based in the border city of Newry and currently employing 550 people, is to expand using 4.3 million pounds ($7 million) in funding from Northern Ireland's investment agency.

The firm provides consultancy and software services to help investment banks, brokers and hedge funds to calculate and manage their exposure to country risk.

The jobs, most of which are for graduate-level consultants, are sorely needed in a UK region hit hard by government cuts and exposure to a sharp recession in the Republic of Ireland.

Northern Ireland's unemployment rate hit a 13-year high of 8 percent in February. It climbed 6.5 percent in a year when the UK rate decreased by 10 percent, in part due to its exposure to government cutbacks.

First Derivatives, which was founded in Newry in 1996, has operations in London, New York, Stockholm, Singapore, Toronto, Dublin Sydney and Hong Kong. (Writing by Ian Graham; Editing by Will Waterman)