Hartlepool jobless benefit claimants at highest for last five years

Job Centre Plus Hartlepool. Picture by FRANK REID
Job Centre Plus Hartlepool. Picture by FRANK REID

The number of people out of work and claiming benefits in Hartlepool rose again last month to the highest level for five years.

Official figures show that in February, the number of working age adults in the town who claimed out of work benefits rose by 150 to 4,115.

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill. Picture by FRANK REID

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill. Picture by FRANK REID

It is now the highest number it has been since April 2013.

And at 7.1%, it has the highest proportion of working age people claiming jobless benefit for the whole of the North East, and is more than twice the regional average at 3.5%.

Hartlepool is also some way ahead of Middlesbrough which is in second place in the region on 5.5%.

Town MP Mike Hill said: “These figures are naturally disturbing and reflect a continuing trend across the country where unemployment has risen for a second month jumping by 24,000 to 1.45 million nationally.

Employment Minister Esther McVey. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire.

Employment Minister Esther McVey. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire.

“The rise has been fuelled by a sizeable fall in the number of people previously classed as economically inactive - including students, those on long-term sick leave or early retirees deciding to return to work and has hit women particularly hard.

“Universal Credit has also had a particular effect in Hartlepool where more and more people are being declared fit for work, when quite clearly they are not.”

Mr Hill added he was encouraged by recent investment and business growth in the town, but said any job opportunities should be offered to local people first.

He said: “As such I have been talking to the council and employers about how we can focus better on local job provision, including the introduction of meaningful apprenticeships for young people, the establishment of a Care Academy and a focus away from the use of agency workers in our larger employers.”

The Office for National Statistics says the number of people claiming out of work benefits is expected to rise because Universal Credit includes a wider range of claimants than under Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The Stockton North constituency, which includes Billingham, Wolviston and parts of Wynyard, rose by just 10 in February to 2,330 or 4% of the working age population.

Easington rose by 240 to 2,355 and in Sedgefield the claimant count was up by 90 to 1,500.

The Department of Work and Pensions said the national employment rate is now as high as it has ever been since records began at 75.3% with 402,000 more people in work in the last year.

The number of people out of work is down by 127,000 nationally compared to a year ago.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Esther McVey said: “Getting a job means securing an income for a family and the chance to build a better future. That’s why up and down the country we are doing all we can to help people into work.

“And from next month, we’ll be taking thousands more people out of paying tax and also increasing the National Living Wage, benefiting those on the lowest pay and making sure they keep more of what they earn.

“In fact by raising the National Living Wage we have ensured that the lowest earners have seen their wages grow by almost 7% above inflation since 2015.”