THE latest fall in the number of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants in Uttoxeter should be met with ‘cautious optimism’, it has been claimed.
Dawn Green, chief executive of the East Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau, a charity which provides support for benefit claimants, said the news of another month-on-month fall was ‘encouraging’.
The Office for National Statistics said there were 1,695 JSA claimants in East Staffordshire last month, or 2.5 per cent of the population.
This was down from 1,727 in November and represented the ninth consecutive monthly fall in the claimant count.
Looking at Uttoxeter itself, the Heath ward experienced a drop from 88 to 74 claimants, while the Town ward dropped from 60 to 58. Both remain better than the East Staffordshire average.
Derbyshire Dales also saw a drop from 671 to 655 between November and December. In the Staffordshire Moorlands, however, there was a rise from 1,166 in November to 1,240 in December.
Mrs Green said: “The news of a fall in East Staffordshire is encouraging. I have a sense of cautious optimism.”
But she warned that the count could rise again once Government welfare reforms come into effect in April.
“I do wonder what the impact of this will be on JSA claimants,” she said. “There are concerns about the effect these welfare reforms could have.”
Mrs Green also said the JSA count alone was not a reliable indicator of the state of the economy, pointing out that many people were out of work but in receipt of other benefits.
Meanwhile business leaders have also welcomed the rise in employment and described talk of a triple-dip recession as ‘unnecessarily downbeat’.
Chris Plant, a spokesman for Burton and District Chamber of Commerce, which covers Uttoxeter, said: “The new figures reinforce favourable trends that have been apparent over the past year.”
But he claimed a ‘more effective growth strategy’ was needed to stimulate further job creation.
Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: “It’s good to see long-term unemployment falling and the number of young people claiming JSA dropping again, while the increase in vacancies shows there are jobs out there.
“But we are not complacent, and will continue making sure we give jobseekers the support and training they need.”
However, a trade union officer has described the scale of youth unemployment in East Staffordshire as ‘totally shocking’.
There were 455 Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants in East Staffordshire aged between 18 and 24 in December.
Rick Coyle, the Uttoxeter and Burton regional officer for Unite, said too many young people were dependent on casual or agency work and he called on ministers to introduce a ‘proper plan for full employment’.
Mr Coyle said: “The scale of the increase in long-term youth unemployment in and around Uttoxeter is totally shocking. This has to be a wake up call.
“Our Government’s blind faith in markets to deliver solutions obviously doesn’t work.”