Uttlesford bucks UK’s downward unemployment trend

UNEMPLOYMENT figures for Uttlesford show the district has emerged relatively unscathed from the latest downturn in the UK economy – although residents have been warned to brace themselves for a tough 2012.

Figures released today (Wednesday) by the Office for National Statistics showed the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance had remained steady over the past two years, bucking a downward national trend which has seen unemployment rise to a 17-year high of 2.68million, a 118,000 person increase.

MP for Saffron Walden, Sir Alan Haselhurst, said: “I’m relieved we haven’t been as badly hit as other areas and I’m keeping my fingers crossed it stays that way.

“It would appear that we are extremely well protected from some of the difficulties being faced by other parts of the country but we cannot be complacent about it because 2012 could be a difficult year.”

Between May 2010 and December 2011, the percentage of Uttlesford’s population claiming unemployment benefits was relatively static – fluctuating between 1.6 and 1.7 per cent.

According to December’s statistics, 825 people claimed jobseeker’s allowance – 20 more than the previous month and the highest number in almost two years – although the rate was the same at 1.7 per cent. Of that figure, 220 were aged 16-24, which is the highest number since April 2010.

Yet these figures could be misleading, according to community charity Uttlesford Citizens Advice Bureau.

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Manager Kate Robson said: “If you look at the demographics of Uttlesford there is a very low level of young people living in the area.

“Often people are living away from home at university and perhaps don’t come back to the area because housing prices are so expensive, transport issues and a lack of job opportunities.

“Those who do come back often end up staying at the family home and do not necessarily claim benefits, so it could be argued that the statistics are rather skewed.”

The number claiming unemployment benefits nationally increased to 1.6m. Although this was an increase of 1,200 from the previous three months, it was less than the 10,000 that had been predicted by economists.

Unemployment in the UK rose to 8.4 per cent in the three months to November, while the jobless rate in the East of England increased from 6.7 to 7.2 per cent.

The last unemployment figures available for Uttlesford, which go back to June 2011, showed that 4.4 per cent of the local population was out of work – about 2,000 people.