Numbers of unemployed benefit claimants continue to fall

Figures released today show that 35,487 people were claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in Greater Manchester in December 2014 – a decrease of 2,661 (7.0%) when compared with the figure for November 2014 of 38,148.

The North West saw a monthly decline of 5.3%, while for Great Britain the fall was 2.9%. As a proportion of the resident working-age population, 2.0% of people in Greater Manchester were claiming JSA in December – the same level as the North West (2.0%) but still slightly higher than the national average (at 1.9%).

Youth unemployment (JSA claimants aged 16-24) in Greater Manchester decreased on a monthly basis between November and December 2014, falling by 915 to around 6,650. On an annual basis, the number of youth JSA claimants is 57% (8,700) lower than this time last year.

Long-term (6 months+) claimants in Greater Manchester declined in December 2014 to 16,340, down by 1080 (6.2%) on the November figure. On an annual basis the number of long-term claimants is now 43.9% (12,800) lower than this time last year. The North West (39.3%) and Great Britain (37%) also saw annual declines in long-term claimants.

Commenting on the data Stephen Overell, principal for skills and employment at New Economy, said: “As has been the trend recently, the numbers of people receiving JSA has continued to fall in December in Greater Manchester. The fall is slightly lower comparing November and December than has been the case for monthly falls throughout most of 2014. We will need to see data for January – employment traditionally dips in the new year as Christmas seasonal work comes to an end – before we can tell if the period of extremely rapid reductions in claimant count numbers we have seen is starting to come to an end.

“As ever, we need to be careful about reading too much into these figures. JSA data in Greater Manchester ignores the rising numbers who have been transferred to Universal Credit – roughly 8,000 people. What’s more, just because someone moves off benefit, we cannot be sure they have moved into work. Other data sources which survey people to see if they are unemployed rather than claiming benefit are not changing in the same pattern as JSA data, which suggests an issue with hidden unemployment – people who stop claiming benefits, possibly after being sanctioned, but effectively disappear from the system. We do not know what they live on.

“Looking at the regional picture on unemployment (rather than numbers claiming benefit), the North West saw only a very small reduction in overall unemployment, suggesting a slowing of job growth. Unemployment in the three month period of September to November fell by only 4,000 (0.1%) in the region compared with June to August. The North West has an overall employment rate of 6.5% compared with 5.8% for the UK as a whole.”

See the latest post from Stephen Overell on the New Economy Blog: “Employment agencies are growing fast. How concerned should we be?”: