Claimant count down in unemployment hotspots

Jobseekers Allowance claims have fallen dramatically in areas of the North East with the highest unemployment levels

A person walking past a job centre
North East unemployment hotspots have seen the number of people claiming unemployment benefit drop

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit has fallen dramatically in many of the North East’s unemployment hotspots.

New figures showing a fall in Jobseekers Allowance claimants provided a further boost for Chancellor George Osborne, as manufacturers said confidence was at a 40-year high.

But Labour pointed out that the Government was set to miss its key target for getting the deficit down - after it emerged Britain’s debt mountain was £10.7bn higher than expected in the last financial year.

A major reduction in the claimant count was highlighted in a paper published by the House of Commons library measuring claimant counts by constituency.

South Shields has one of the highest claimant counts, with 3,238 residents claiming Jobseekers Allowance in March, or 8.3% of the economically active population.

But this was 1,042 people fewer than a year previously - a fall of 24.3%, or almost a quarter.

In Gateshead, the claimant count fell by 22.9% over a year, to 3,114 people and in Jarrow, the claimant count fell by 24.8% to 2,582 people.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne
 

The claimant count in Newcastle Central fell by 18.1% to 3,480 people. In Newcastle East it fell by 23.2% to 2,524 people and in Newcastle North it fell by 22.1% to 1,744 people.

There was more good news for the region as a study found that the average North East household had more disposable income than a year ago.

Households in the region had £115 a week of discretionary income in March 2014, up £6 a week year-on-year, according to research commissioned by supermarket chain Asda.

And while spending power rose across the country, the North East enjoyed a bigger rise in disposable income - the income left once taxes and the spend on essentials like rent, utilities and bills have been deducted - than any other region of England.

The increase was driven by falling unemployment and a slowdown in the rate of inflation thanks to a fall of 6.6% in petrol prices

A survey by employers organisation the CBI found the mood in Britain’s factories was at its most upbeat in more than 40 years, with 41% of manufacturers saying they were more optimistic about business than three months ago.

But it also emerged that Britain’s debt mountain was £10.7bn higher than expected in the last financial yea, as it rose to more than three-quarters of gross domestic product.

Underlying public sector debt was £1,268.7bn for the year to the end of March, ahead of the £1,258bn forecast last month by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), as central Government receipts were lower than the OBR expected.

Chris Leslie MP, Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said the figures were “further evidence that George Osborne’s promise to balance the books by next year now lies in tatters.”

He added: “A deficit this year of £107.7bn compared to the Chancellor’s claim in 2010 that it would be just £60bn is the cost of the three damaging years of flatlining and falling living standards we have seen since the election.”

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