New increase in the number of unemployed

Wharfedale Observer: Work Minister Esther McVey Work Minister Esther McVey

Unemployment is on the rise again in West Yorkshire, denting government hopes that the recovery has taken root.

The number of people on the dole in the Bradford district stood at 17,244 in January, up by 307 on the total claiming jobless benefits at the end of December.

It meant that Bradford’s unemployment rate – the proportion of economically active people on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) – rose from 6.9 per cent to 7.1 per cent.

And that disappointing pattern was mirrored across Calderdale, Kirklees and Leeds.

In Calderdale, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits rose – for the second successive month – by 149 to 5,288, a rate of 5.2 per cent.

Similarly, Kirklees recorded a rise of 214 in the number of jobless people to 10,125. Its jobless rate rose by 0.1 per cent to 5.1 per cent.

In Leeds, the 20,554 people on the dole represented an increase of 785 on a month earlier, a rise in the rate from 4.6 per cent to 4.8 per cent.

Meanwhile, charities seized on separate statistics – showing a sharp rise in the number of jobseekers stripped of benefits – to suggest the figures could have been even higher.

More than 35,000 people across West Yorkshire were docked JSA – for up to 13 weeks, for a first offence – in the year to last September.

Most “sanctions” were applied because claimants missed job centre appointments or deliberately avoided finding a job, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said.

But charities for the homeless and single parents accused ministers of presiding over “a culture of fear” in which jobseekers were forced to meet unrealistic targets.

Hostel residents with limited IT facilities were being told to apply for 50 jobs per week, while single parents must apply for full-time jobs or lose benefits.

Work Minister Esther McVey hailed different figures, showing the overall number of people out of work – not simply claiming benefits – is still falling sharply.

That total fell by 8,000 across Yorkshire to 240,000, part of a UK-wide reduction of 125,000 to 2.34m in the three months to December.

However, those statistics are less recent than the claimant count for the West Yorkshire districts, which is for January.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, the executive member for employment and skills at Bradford Council, said the City Growth Zone incentive was having a positive impact with businesses.

But she said the Government had to start engineering an economic recovery for the whole country, “not one which is just propped up on the overheating London and South East economic bubble”.

Nick Palmer, senior labour market statistician at the Office for National Statistics, said there remained an overall falling trend despite the latest figure comparing the July-September and October-December three-month periods, which at 7.2 per cent was slightly higher than last month’s published figure of 7.1 per cent for September-November. “The main conclusion that should be drawn from these latest figures is that the rate at which unemployment has been falling is likely to have slowed down,” he said.

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