THE number of people looking for work on Wearside jumped to its highest level in almost a year last month.
There were 10,525 people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in January, an increase of 508 on December’s figure of 10,015 and the highest level since April 2012, when there were 10,668 claimants.
The rise is not a surprise, however. Unemployment usually rises in January as seasonal contract work for the Christmas period comes to an end, and this year’s rise is significantly less than last January, which saw the claimant count jump by more than 700.
Across the North East, the picture was mixed. The last three months saw the Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant count fall by 2,000 – but the number of people actually in work fell even more sharply, by 3,000.
Ross Smith, North East Chamber of Commerce director of policy, said: “These estimates show a surprising set of numbers with a sudden reversal of the trend that had seen strong growth in employment and reduction in unemployment throughout 2012.
“However, the changes do not alter the fact that over the year, the North East fared significantly better than the UK as a whole, but this sudden swing in fortunes reported in the final month means the overall gap with UK rates once again widened.
“These estimates also contradict our Quarterly Economic Survey, which in the final quarter of 2012 showed another strong score for workforce among members with many businesses currently recruiting. Nevertheless, public sector job cuts have continued. It remains to be seen whether these figures are a blip caused by the wide margin for error in the estimates.”
Andrew Hebden, CBI assistant director for the North East, said: “It is encouraging that, despite tough economic conditions, the unemployment numbers continue to fall. The news about the North East is particularly positive and shows our economy is turning a corner. While unemployment in the region is still higher than we would like, these figures show it continues to close the gap on other parts of the UK.”