Hope on jobs

Hartlepool Jobcentre Plus
Hartlepool Jobcentre Plus

THE job queue in Hartlepool has shortened slightly as plans are put in place to tackle high unemployment levels.

Despite the worrying levels of people out of work, the town is said to be leading the way in improving the Tees Valley’s economy with a series of job and investment boosts.

A report by regeneration group Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU) has said the current trend is for jobs growth in the area – and Hartlepool is playing a key role.

Last month’s Jobseeker’s Allowance figures, which have just been released, show there were 4,267 people claiming the benefit in town, or 7.3 per cent of the working population.

It is only three claimants less than October and puts the town seventh nationally behind the likes of Kingston-upon-Hull and Middlesbrough, with the national average standing at 3.8 per cent.

A slight improvement was also seen in the number of 18 to 25-year-olds signing on as 25 fewer young people claimed the benefit than the 1,430 in October.

But at 16.9 per cent, it is far higher than the national figure of 7.8 per cent and is the third worst in the country.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance nationally rose by 3,000 to 1.6m.

While economists say the rate of increase in the claimant count shows no signs of slowing down, the rise was much less than the approximate 15,000 figure they expected on average.

A spokesman for TVU said: “The net jobs figure is lower than seen in the early part of the year, but far above that seen in autumn last year.”

The study showed:

Able UK received £2.2m backing under the Regional Growth Fund towards a £16m scheme to develop a dry dock. Company founder and executive chairman Peter Stephenson said more than 230 direct jobs could be created;

Stadium Electronics expects to exceed previous forecasts with a profit before tax next year of £3.5m rather than the previous estimate of £3.3m thanks to extra contracts;

Merlin Flex-Ability, which designs and makes flexible printed circuit boards, has invested in its Hartlepool factory including a £100,000 laser drilling machine;

Rail firm Grand Central, which provides direct services to London from Hartlepool, was bought by Arriva and could now increase its services to the capital;

Builders merchant JT Atkinson has opened five new branches including one in Hartlepool, where it created eight jobs;

JD Sports extended its shop in the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre;

Advice company Energy Direct UK ploughed £300,000 into new technology at its Queens Meadow Business Park site and created up to six new jobs.

The TVU spokesman added: “November saw a slight slowdown in job gains with around 300 created this month, mostly in the retail and leisure sectors.

“There were also stories of growth among a number of engineering firms and digital businesses.”

The downside of the report was a prediction of job losses to come, including potentially at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust which is looking to save £40m over the next three years.

The spokesman added: “There was a sharp rise in vacancies notified to Jobcentre Plus in October, with the Tees Valley rate becoming close to that of the North-East and Great Britain both of which also rose.”

Part of it is down to Christmas jobs but the spokesman added: “The October figures are part of a generally rising trend during 2011.”

The Jobseeker’s Allowance figures showed a small rise in the number of overall claimants in the Easington constituency, from 2,915 to 3,009 while there was a minor fall in the Sedgefield constituency from 2,359 in October to 2,332.

The Stockton North constituency, which covers Billingham, Wolviston and areas of Wynyard, also saw a fall from 3,875 to 3,812 in the same period.

Follow Mark Thompson on Twitter @MThompsonHMail