THE number of people looking for work on Wearside fell to its lowest level in almost a year-and-a-half last month.
New figures show there were 10,017 people receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance – and, therefore, classed as actively looking for a job – in the Sunderland City Council area in December.
That represents a drop of 163 month-on-month and is the lowest figure since July 2011, when there were 9,921 Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants in the city.
Sunderland’s claimant rate is 5.3 per cent, slightly better than the regional rate of 5.5 per cent but still significantly higher than the national average of 3.7 per cent.
The number of people in employment across the North East rose by 9,000 over the last three months of the year to 1,184,000 or 68.2 per cent – a rise of 9,000 over the quarter and 52,000 over the year. This compares to a rate of 71.4 per cent nationally.
The overall unemployment rate for the region, including people who are not classed as actively looking for work, is 119,000 or 9.1 per cent – a fall of 10,000 over the quarter and 36,000 over the year but still higher than the national rate of 7.7 per cent.
North East Chamber of Commerce director of policy Ross Smith, said: “It is fantastic to start the year with such a positive set of labour market figures, which continues the trend we saw throughout most of 2012.
“The ongoing steep fall in unemployment and rise in employment must be welcomed, with both standing at their best rate in the region since August 2010.
“The improvement in the North East figures continues to outpace the UK as a whole, closing the gap between the two. The difference between our region and the UK employment rate is now lower than at any point in 2008-9, though it must be pointed out that both are lower than for much of that period.
“There is also good news on the claimant count, with the regional rate falling for the first time in more than a year, though the gap with the rest of the UK has still widened significantly since late 2011.”
Andrew Hebden, CBI assistant director for the North East, said: “It is encouraging more jobs have been created this month than last. It is good news that people continue to find work despite tough economic times, and in particular 113,000 more people are now working full time.
“The news about the North East is particularly positive – a fall of 0.8 per cent in the unemployment rate is very encouraging, especially coming on the back of a generally improving picture during most of 2012. The region is now also closing the gap on other parts of the UK which has to be good news.
“Pay restraint has played an important role in preserving jobs, and with growth in average weekly earnings remaining subdued at 1.5 per cent, it’s clear this is a trend that continues.”