Employment Minister: Cutting jobless will be a big challenge for Devon and Cornwall
Devon and Cornwall face a "big challenge" to bring about a jobs recovery, the Employment Minister has told the Western Morning News.
Official figures yesterday showed unemployment has fallen nationally to its lowest total for more than a year.
But the number of people on the dole in Devon and Cornwall increased last month.
During a briefing with journalists in Westminster, Employment Minister Mark Hoban admitted the figures were "patchy" – and pledged to visit the far South West to get a better handle on the problems facing the area.
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Figures from the Office for National Statistics indicate the wider South West is coming out of the recession in better shape than other regions. Just 5.8% of the working age population are out of work – the lowest proportion in the UK.
Another positive sign is the number of people out of work in the South West decreasing by 2,000 in the quarter to September, to 155,000. But some commentators have warned the better health of the economy around the Bristol area masks sluggishness further west.
Devon and Cornwall's claimant count, the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance, is the only way to measure unemployment locally. The figure jumped by 2% to 27,775 in October – a monthly increase of 465 claimants. The count is around 820 lower than the same month last year, though.
Mr Hoban told the WMN: "You've seen some strong job creation in Gloucestershire and Somerset – Mulberry is opening a new factory in Bridgwater. But it's patchy.
"How do we make sure we are providing support at the sub-regional level to get the economy motoring? And what more can we do in Devon and Cornwall? It's very clear on some of the early sessions I've done that in the far South West there is quite a big challenge there."
Among a spate of job losses in the region, Plymouth City Council has just announced a further 100 jobs are to go.
Last year, Okehampton in Devon was battered after three businesses closed down in the space of a few weeks, with a total loss of 350 jobs among just 7,000 residents.
The claimant count for the Devon county council area was 9,175 (a rate of 2%), up 190 month-on-month. In Cornwall the number was 8,975 (2.7%), or 345 more than in September.
Plymouth's was 6,245 (3.6%), down 30 on the month and Torbay's 3,380 (4.2%), a monthly fall of 40.
Nationally, the jobless total dropped by 49,000 in the quarter to September, to 2.51 million, the lowest figure since last summer. But the claimant count jumped by 10,100 last month to 1.58 million, the highest since July, and the biggest monthly rise since last September.