Thursday, 8.50am: Figures show that 6,312 Peterborough residents were claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in February, soaring to its highest level in 17 years.
The figure, up 474 on the January total rose for the third month in a row.
It is the most people unemployed in the city since April 1995, when 6,447 people were claiming unemployment benefits.
The figures from the Office for National Statistics show the percentage of working-age people in Peterborough who are without jobs is 5.6 per cent - considerably higher than both the East of England jobless rate of 3.4 per cent and the national rate of 4.1 per cent.
The jobless plight facing the city has triggered calls from leading politicians for urgent action to get people back into work.
Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson said the city needed to do more to create employment opportunities for job seekers.
He said: “It is very disappointing to hear this news.
“In the past the city’s regeneration company, Opportunity Peterborough, has not done enough to bring jobs into the city. It has raised its game significantly recently but still needs to do more.
“I am disappointed Peterborough was not chosen to be home to the national Green Investment Bank because that would have brought 70 good jobs.
“We need to start to make our case more strongly to attract more businesses to Peterborough.”
Mr Jackson also suggested the creation of job clubs in the city to help people get back into work.
Peterborough City Council leader Councillor Marco Cereste said he had sympathy with residents who were out of work and urged them to take part in work training courses.
He said: “This is not something that pleases anyone, but as a council we are doing everything we can to bring investment into the city.
“There are businesses coming to Peterborough, but it will take a while for the jobs to come into the system and my heart goes out to everyone who is looking for work.
“We are in discussions to hold a job fair in the city in the future when job seekers can meet with organisations with vacancies.
“I would also encourage people to go out and learn new skills, to make more opportunities available to them.”
Neil Darwin, director of economic development for Opportunity Peterborough, said a number of companies have plans to invest in Peterborough but are biding their time because of the current climate.
He said staff were often the first to be axed by struggling firms.
He added: “But we should not forget that a number of companies are continuing to recruit locally, such as insurance companies BGL and RSA in addition to new retail and restaurant outlets set to open later this year.
“In the meantime Opportunity Peterborough is persistently looking for new employers and helping those in the city to grow.”
Chief executive of Peterborough Chamber of Commerce John Bridge said: “We knew there would be a blip in the figures at the beginning of the year, because of the amount of temporary and seasonal work coming to an end and these figures could have been much worse.
“We do know there are more jobs coming to Peterborough.”
The jobless figures:
THE 6,312 people on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in the city represent 5.6 per cent of the population of Peterborough aged between 16 and 64.
The figure includes 1,800 people aged 18 to 24, 3,600 between 25 and 49 and 875 between 50 and 64.
It also includes 4,254 males and 2,058 females.
The national percentage stands at 4.1 percent of the population who are on JSA.
After reaching 6,447 in April 1995, the figure gradually fell, and in November 2002 stood at just 1,932 the lowest number since 1983, when recent records began. The highest figure ever dates back to February 1986, when the number stood at 9,676.
• Vairis Vanags (25), of Bretton, said the main problem facing Peterborough job hunters was the amount of seasonal work. He said: “I use the machines at the Jobcentre, and they are very helpful, but there are lots of temporary jobs available, and no permanent ones.”
• Stephanie Stevens (19) from Westwood, said: “I have been looking for a job for two years. There just are not enough available at the moment. I am struggling to pay the rent as a result.”
• Charlie Prior (20), from Parnwell, who has also been looking for work for two years, said: “You don’t get enough help at the Jobcentre to get a job.”
• Ezra Lawrence (22) of Westwood said: “There are jobs out there, but there is only a narrow selection. The Jobcentre does make it hard to find work at times.”
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