UNEMPLOYMENT is at its lowest level for a decade, according to new figures.
The latest Labour Market Statistics from the Office for National Statistics show the national employment rate at its highest since records began in 1971 with 74.2 per cent of the working-age population – 31.58m people – in work.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Stephen Crabb, said: ‘These are a record-breaking set of figures, with more people in work than ever before and the unemployment rate at the lowest in a decade at 5.1 per cent.
‘There is great news in the south east, where there are now a record 4.5m people in work. The area has the highest employment rate of any UK nation or region.’
Ed Coomber, the manager of Jobcentre Plus in Arundel Street, said that Portsmouth had seen a drop of 79 per cent of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance – falling from 5,700 in 2010 to 2,017 yesterday.
He said: ‘People are not just bouncing from benefit to benefit – they are back in employment. The more people in work, the better it is for the economy and for the city.’
Yesterday’s figures were welcomed by Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt.
Mrs Drummond said: ‘These are excellent figures.
But we must remember they are not just statistics – they are people in work right now, helping their loved ones and also contributing to the country.
‘I believe the vast majority of people want work and not a life on the dole, but it’s the responsibility of government to help that to happen.’
She said she would now like to see wages rise.
Ms Mordaunt added: ‘It is the hard graft of Portsmouth’s business community that has delivered this. Much done, but more to do.’
Elsewhere the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance also fell – in Gosport from 1,500 in 2010 to 560, Fareham from 1,300 to 455 and Havant from 2,600 to 1,065.
Fareham MP Suella Fernandes said: ‘These figures are great news for Fareham, which is doing better than other areas locally in reducing unemployment. We now have record numbers of people in jobs, which is a tribute to the many excellent businesses we have here.’
Havant MP Alan Mak added: ‘Havant’s economy is on the rise thanks to the hard work of local residents and businesses.’
However Phil Rutt, from Fareham and Gosport Basics Bank, a foodbank that serves both towns, warned against optimism.
He said they had 2,076 referrals in 2015/16, compared to 2,187 the year before and 2,319 in 2014.
Mr Rutt said: ‘There’s still a great need. Official unemployment figures may be falling, but the need for the support we give remains at unacceptably high levels.
‘Poverty is not changing as families struggle to survive on the little amount of money they are earning. We are still feeding more than 4,000 people a year.’