THE number of jobless benefit claimants rocketed last month leaving Hartlepool with the joint second highest percentage of unemployed nationwide.
The four Parliamentary constituencies covered by the Hartlepool Mail have seen Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants rise by a total of 434 people last month.
Hartlepool had the largest increase, with a rise of 184 claiming the benefit in December compared with November last year.
The town’s claimant figures rose from 4,267 in November, to 4,451 last month.
The percentage of people claiming the benefit rose from 7.3 per cent to 7.7 per cent in the same period, leaving the town joint second with Wolverhampton and behind Kingston upon Hull at 8.2 per cent. The national average is 3.9 per cent and the North East average is 5.3 per cent.
The bleak outlook also showed Hartlepool as having the third highest percentage of claimants in the 18-25 and the 25-49 age groups.
The new figures show that 17.3 per cent of people in the 18-25 age group in town, which is 1,440 people, claimed the benefit last month and eight per cent, which is 2,390 people, claimed in the 25-49 age group in Hartlepool.
Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “I don’t think the figures are a great surprise, every month is seems to be going in the wrong direction, and I don’t think we have had the peak yet.
“It is the times that we are in and it is really tough, all we can do is try to introduce investment into the town and create more jobs.”
Mayor Drummond wrote to businesses last month asking them what it would take for them to employ one more person and he says he received a good response.
He added: “One thing they raised was that employer contributions are really high for a small business and that if they could see a reduction they could employ more people.
“I’m looking to write to Vince Cable to see if there is anything that can be done to help small businesses in this way.”
The Easington constituency area saw a rise of 54 from 3,009 in November to 3,063 last month.
There was a rise of 132 in the Stockton North constituency, which includes Billingham, Wolviston and parts of Wynyard, from 3,812 in November to 3,944 in December.
And the Sedgefield constituency saw a rise of 64 claimants from 2,332 in November to 2,396 in the following month.
The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance nationally in December rose by 1,200 to 1.6m, the highest for a year after the 10th consecutive monthly rise.
Unemployment across the North-East rose by 11,000 to 153,000 between September and November to stand at 12 per cent and become the highest regional level in the country.
Nationwide unemployment reached a 17-year high as the figure jumped by 118,000 to 2.68m, the worst since the summer of 1994, giving the UK a jobless rate of 8.4 per cent.
Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: “The overall level of unemployment is, and will remain, a major concern for the Government.”