Thursday, 9.30am: The number of jobless people in Peterborough fell for the first time in four months during April - by just eight - after hitting a 17-year high earlier in the year.
The number of people aged 16 to 64 claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in the local authority area fell to 6,344 during April, according to figures published on Wednesday (16 May) by the Office for National Statistics.
Last month’s decline followed a surge in claimants at the start of 2012, with the figure rising by 608 during January and 474 during February, busting the 6,000 threshold and setting a 17-year high for the area.
It was followed by a further rise of 40 during March.
Chief executive of Peterborough Chamber of Commerce John Bridge said the figures suggested the impact of the end of Christmas employment, thought to be behind the 1,000-plus new claimants in the local authority at the start of this year, was waning.
He said: “I think we very much hoped the figure would drop slightly this month and clearly we know and understand the trends that we have in employment, particularly with the seasonal work which impacted and affected the figure in the early months of this year, and that is clearly now stabilising.”
He added: “We were very much hoping this month the corner would be turned.”
The decline, as might be expected, had no impact on Peterborough’s unemployment rate, which for a third month in a row stands at 5.6 per cent.
This means, however, the local authority is now further adrift from the regional and national averages which fell by 0.1 per cent to 3.2 per cent and 4.0 per cent respectively.
Urban regeneration company Opportunity Peterborough spoke of its confidence for the city’s future.
A spokesman said: “However small, a decline in the number of claimants is better news; it shows we’re moving in the right direction.
“Peterborough’s unemployment record historically follows the national trend which has improved recently. We’re expecting to see a more significant drop in Peterborough’s claimant count soon.
“We’re consistently hearing from businesses which have strong plans to expand over coming months, however the macro economic condition is impacting upon business decisions. Despite this small decrease, we’re still performing better than competitor cities.”
Last month’s fall appears to be driven by a change in the area’s youth unemployment levels.
The number of claimants aged between 18 and 24 dropped by 30 from 1,795 to 1,765, while there was a rise in the number of 25-49-year-olds claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance (3,640 to 3,680) and a smaller decline for those aged 49-plus (885 to 875).
Peterborough Regional College, in Park Crescent, has been offering short employability courses for referrals from Job Centre Plus (JCP) to help claimants secure work, as well as sector-specific courses for construction, hospitality, retail and IT industries.
A spokeswoman said: “We also work with JCP to provide pre-employment training for employers using a sector based work academy model.
“So far, we have focused on supporting specific employers, including Coco Cola, Harvester, The Rose and Crown Hotel, Qualitetch and Homecare Solutions, through these programmes where they are opening a new store or experiencing continued growth. We have ambitious plans to support large scale recruitment activity in the logistics sector later in the year.”
Total UK unemployment fell by 45,000 to 2.63 million in the first three months of 2012.
What do you think?