While the latest employment figures from the Office for National statistics show that the number of people out work nationally remains at historic lows, the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s allowance in Eastleigh has jumped by 94% in the last 12 months. In 2015 there were only 495 people on dole but last month there were 1,060 people signing on in Eastleigh – almost double the number of claimants since last year and the highest level since September 2013.
A spokesperson from the Department of Work and Pensions explained that the claimant count does not accurately reflect the actual number of people out of work and told Eastleigh News that due to the introduction of Universal Credit (UC) in the area many people currently receiving Job Seekers Allowance ‘aren’t really unemployed.’
Previously, low income workers, especially those who are self-employed or on zero-hour contracts, had their wages topped up through Working Tax Credits and other benefits but under UC it is possible to claim ‘New style JSA’ while still working up to 16 hours a week. Under the old system, the monthly JSA claimant count represented the number of people out of work, seeking a job and claiming benefit but now the figures additionally show the number of people in the borough working less than 16 hours a week and claiming JSA to top up their income.
Despite the increase in claimants the total number of people in Eastleigh’s working age is still at historic lows at half the rate it was in 2010. Currently JSA claimants only represent 1.3% of the Borough’s working age population, a figure that is lower than both the regional average and the average for England – and considerably better than neighbouring Southampton where the figure is 2.9%.
The DWP also told Eastleigh News that local job prospects are improving:
“The transport sector including warehousing is strong as are admin call centres. Retail shows some progression with new Aldi and Poundland stores opening shortly. SME’s are recruiting but tend to be specialist engineering or tech roles.”
Also, this week the Department of Work and Pensions launched a new ‘Find a job’ online service to help jobseekers back into work.
Eastleigh News registered for the site and tried the service to see how many jobs were available in Eastleigh and found 26 – that’s one job for every 36 jobseekers.
In Southampton where there are now 5,020 jobseekers there are 133 vacancies or 38 jobseekers to every vacancy.
In a statement, The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey, hailed the latest employment figures saying:
“Since 2010 we have seen more than 3.2 million people move into work right across the UK. Youth unemployment has fallen by over 40% and the unemployment rate has not been lower since 1975.
“Today’s figures once again cement that turnaround, with a new employment rate record of 75.6%, and on average over 1,000 people each and every day, since 2010, getting a job.”
In 2015 McVey spoke to Eastleigh News during a visit to the Town to hail a record low in unemployment when the claimant count stood at 600. During an interview McVey told Eastleigh News that the majority of new jobs being created were “full-time and professional.” It seems the growing number of ‘new style’ of working JSA Claimants in Eastleigh reveals the previously hidden workers in the ‘gig economy.’
Sources: ONS, DWP