Norwich jobless tally rises

Paul Hill, business editorThe number of people out of work and claiming benefits in Norwich rose by 279 last month as shops, hotels and pubs laid off the extra staff drafted in to help at Christmas.Paul Hill, business editor

The number of people out of work and claiming benefits in Norwich rose by 279 last month as shops, hotels and pubs laid off the extra staff drafted in to help at Christmas.

The latest figures revealed that the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance rose sharply across every district of Norfolk in January, with the biggest rises in the city and Great Yarmouth.

The total number on the unemployment benefit in Norfolk rose by 1,350 to 19,731 people - the highest level since March last year and the highest rate (4pc of the population) seen in any of the six counties of the East of England.

But the figures also revealed that one in 10 men in Yarmouth claimed jobseeker's allowance in January, far a higher proportion of the male workforce than in any other district of the Eastern region and higher than the 6.1pc average for the UK as a whole.

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Business leaders said the rise in lay-offs was seasonal.

But Caroline Williams, chief executive of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, warned that there were "worrying trends" hidden in the data, including falling numbers of people in full-time jobs and record numbers working part-time.

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Mrs Williams said that the local economy was still in a fragile position, but added: 'There's bound to be a spike in claimants at this time of year as the retailers, hoteliers and hospitality industry have a seasonal dip in employment - they take a lot of extra cover over the Christmas and sales period. But things will tend to pick up for those industries as we get closer to Easter.'

Adrian Ient, of the East of England Development Agency (Eeda), said the labour market for the six counties "continues to outperform Britain as a whole… but remains fragile".

Mr Ient added that unemployment in the East increased in the last three months of 2009 "more sharply than at any time since the start of the recession".

But he agreed that the rising number of claimants of jobseeker's allowance reflected a seasonal trend.

"The East of England's economy continued to stabilise in late 2009/early 2010, but the recovery is very sluggish," Mr Ient added.

The government warned that further rises in unemployment were expected before the summer as UK-wide figures showed those claiming jobseeker's allowance soared to the highest level since Labour came to power in 1997.

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Local figures for jobseeker's allowance claimants in January compared to December:

Norfolk: 19,731 (+ 1,350)

Suffolk: 13,944 (+959)

Cambridgeshire: 9,965 (+494)

Breckland: 2,673 (+216)

Broadland: 1,670 (+179)

Great Yarmouth: 3,880 (+247)

King's Lynn: 3,109 (+150)

North Norfolk: 1,964 (+123)

Norwich: 4,639 (+279)

South Norfolk: 1,832 (+156)

Waveney: 3,026 (+395)

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