THE number of people looking for work on South Tyneside fell again last month.
There were 4,142 people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance – paid to those classed as actively seeking a job – in December, a drop of 138 on November’s figure of 4,280.
Nationally, there has been concern that the drop in claimant numbers may be more to do with claimants having their benefits withdrawn as a result of Department of Work and Pension sanctions rather than actually finding work.
Research by academics at the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and presented at a Commons select committee inquiry into welfare sanctions yesterday, questions why so many people losing benefit disappear from the welfare system altogether.
North East Jobcentre Plus spokesman Steve McCall said the drop on South Tyneside was a result of people finding work.
“The vast majority of these are going into employment,” he said.
“There are full-time and part-time opportunities out there that we are filling on a monthly basis in things like hospitality, contact centres and care providing and openings at Nissan.”
Jobcentre bosses are braced for a post-Christmas rise in the figures this month: “Historically, there is normally a little bit of a jump in January as people come to the end of seasonal contracts,” said Mr McCall.
“That is why we look at it over the course of a year rather than on a monthly basis, and the trend is definitely going the right way.”
Coun John Anglin, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for regeneration and jobs, said the authority was putting down “solid foundations” to ensure continued economic recovery.
He said: “It is believed that unemployment will continue to fall through 2015, if perhaps at a reduced rate.
“Here in South Tyneside we are laying solid foundations for the future through integration between businesses and the college and borough primary and secondary schools to ensure that teachers and children know what sort of jobs are going to be needed for the future.
“We are also working alongside Sunderland Council to ensure the International Manufacturing Park planned for West Boldon goes ahead.”
Across the region, the number of people in work is up 33,000 over the year, while the number of people classed as unemployed – rather than economically inactive for other reasons – is down 20,000.
North East Chamber of Commerce policy and research manager Mark Stephenson, said: “Today’s figures are a great start to the year with every indicator heading in the right direction and over 30,000 more people in work than this time last year.
“Employment is at a record high for the second successive month, thanks mostly to businesses, while unemployment is at its lowest in over five years – down 20,000 on a year ago.
“The claimant count continues its long term decrease and is down over 20,000 on the year, back to its pre-financial crisis level of 2008.
“In spite of the economic progress we have seen in the past two years, North East unemployment has remained largely static, so to see it falling is very encouraging.
“Ahead of a forthcoming budget and general election it is vital that political parties understand and safeguard the role that businesses play for the well-being of our country.”