THERE were seven less people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in Hartlepool last month, new unemployment figures reveal.
There were 4,671 people receiving JSA in March, which is eight per cent of the working population, compared to 4,678 the month before.
But both figures are still the highest number of town people out of work recorded in statistics going back to January 2006.
The decrease of seven has been branded “insignificant” by Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond.
The figure shows an increase of 402 from this time last year and places Hartlepool second highest in the region for joblessness, behind Middlesbrough, which has 7,621 claimants (8.1 per cent).
The town is also fourth from the top in a national unemployment league behind Kingston-upon-Hull, Middlesbrough and Wolverhampton.
In Easington, there were 3,770 claimants, or 6.2 per cent of the working population, up 17 from 3,753.
But in Sedgefield, the figure has decreased for the second month in a row, from 3,037 in January, to 2,999 in March, which represents 5.5 per cent of the working population.
And in Stockton North, which includes Billingham, Wolviston and some parts of Wynyard, the figure has decreased from 4,270 to 4,242, or 7.1 per cent of people in work.
Mayor Drummond said: “I think it’s insignificant.
“It’s such a small change, I don’t think you can make a judgement as to whether things are getting better or worse. You
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can’t say things are looking up. It’s such a small number, and it would be wrong to do so.”
Mayor Drummond said there was no “overnight solution” to the town’s jobless situation.
He acknowledged the region’s recent success stories with the revival of the blast furnace through SSI International, at Redcar, and the expansion at Nissan, in Sunderland, and said Hartlepool people would be benefiting from these.
“Unfortunately, we missed out on the Gamesa project, but we are working on new ones,” he added.
“Nothing happens overnight, but we have got to keep doing what we are doing.”
In Hartlepool, in the 18-24 age category, there were 1,445 claimants, up slightly from 1,440 last month.
There were also 2,575 people in the 25-49 group, down 20 from February, and the 50-64 group has 630, an increase of 15 from the previous month.
Young jobseeker Michael Driver, 20, is one of the faces of the Hartlepool Mail’s Work in Progress campaign, which aims to highlight the plight of the unemployed.
Michael, of Lanark Road, Owton Manor, said the new figures, although only showing a minimal decrease in the number in the dole queue, were heartening.
“I think it’s a good sign,” he said. “It’s a small improvement, but still an improvement.
“It’s still promising and it shows there must be work out there.”
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright appeared in the Mail yesterday, after debating in Parliament about the effect the Budget had on joblessness in the town and region.
He said unemployment was at “crisis point” in the town and accused the Government of neglecting the region.