Unions cautious as Sunderland joblessness falls

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THE number of people looking for work on Wearside fell to its lowest level in almost two years last month.

But a senior North East union leader has warned against reading too much into one month’s figures, with overall unemployment continuing to rise across the region.

New figures from the Office of National Statistics show there were 9,796 people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in Sunderland last month, a drop of 301 on the April figure of 10,097 and the lowest rate since June 2011’s 9,521.

North East unemployment stands at 131,000 or 10.1 per cent – down 15,000 on this time last year but up 4,000 over the last quarter.

Northern TUC police officer Neil Foster welcomed the fall in the number of claimants on Wearside but said changes to the benefits system made it difficult to judge what the true picture was on the basis of one month’s figures.

“There are so many people moving from one benefit to another at the moment,” he said.

Across the region, unemployment had risen more sharply among men than women, suggesting that those new jobs which were being created were not like-for-like replacements for those which had been lost.

“The jobs which are being created are offering unskilled and quite low-paid part-time work,” he said.

North East Chamber of commerce director of policy Ross Smith said: “The latest estimates represent another relatively disappointing set of figures. The major difference compared to the estimates released last month is that unemployment has returned to a level above 10 per cent, which is a concern.

“It is disappointing that the very positive movement seen in 2012 is not being matched this year. However, members continue to report in our Quarterly Economic Survey that their workforce is growing.”

He added: “The problem is this is not happening quickly enough to offset weaker parts of the economy, including the public sector. A continued focus on skills is critical.”