FAREHAM MP Mark Hoban faced his first real test in his new job as employment minister yesterday with the release of the latest unemployment figures.
The number of people out of work fell by 7,000 nationally to 2.59 million in the three months to July.
There were also signs of an improving picture across Hampshire, with the number of people claiming jobseekers’ allowance falling slightly.
But figures also revealed the number of UK part-time workers leapt by 134,000 to reach 8.12 million – the highest since records began in 1992 – and the number of Britons working part-time because they can not find a full-time job also hit a record high of 1.42 million.
Mr Hoban, who started in his new role after last week’s ministerial reshuffle, said: ‘There is a mixed picture but on the whole it’s encouraging.
‘Since May 2010, we’ve seen an increase in private sector jobs by a million, which is a good performance by the private sector.
‘We are also seeing, I think, the positive impact of the government’s welfare reforms – 140,000 fewer people are claiming out of work benefits. There are some positive and encouraging signs there. But also some challenges too.’
The number of people claiming jobseekers’ allowance continues to fall in south-east Hampshire.
In Portsmouth, the number of people on out-of-work benefits fell by 27 last month.
It now stands at 5,112 people compared with 5,139 in July.
Fareham’s figures showed a drop of 54 claimants from July to a new total of 1,214.
In Gosport, there are 1,585 people claiming benefits – down nine from 1,596.
Havant borough’s number of claimants also fell, down 19 from 2,426 to 2,407; and East Hampshire district saw a decline of 32 to 938.
It was only in Chichester where local claimant figures rose – from 1,306 to 1,1315.
Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, last night challenged Mr Hoban to create a long-term job creation plan to ease the UK’s economic woes.
He said: ‘For families suffering the misery of unemployment, any decrease will be welcome news, but it is clear when you look at the bigger economic picture that any talk of growth is premature.’