Unemployment drops in Norfolk and the region

Unemployment in Norfolk dropped in March by 250 to 17,854 after reaching a 10-month high in February, according to figures on the number of people signing on from the Office for National Statistics.

The figure took the number back down to the same level seen in January, the highest the number had been since May 2010.

Unemployment fell gradually from May 2010 but levelled off in autumn/winter before rising to a 10 month high in February at 18,104.

The drop in the number of people claiming job seeker's allowance was also seen in neighbouring counties Suffolk and Cambridgeshire (for district-level figures see below).

Across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, the figure fell by 418 from 40,060 to 39,642, according to the Office for National Statistics.

This bucked the national trend, which saw a slight increase of 700 to 1.45m.

However, business organisations remained nervous over the state of the jobs market in the current economy suggesting worse is to come.

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Caroline Williams chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: 'These figures are broadly positive, and partly reverse the disappointing numbers reported last month. Over the three months to February, employment rose while unemployment and the number of inactive people declined.

'The figures are welcome, but they should not lead to any complacency. The Government must create the right environment for the private sector to create jobs. As the deficit-cutting programme starts to bite, public sector employment will decline further.

'Yet interim BCC (British Chambers of Commerce) research suggests that employers are nervous about recruiting ex-public sector workers. A survey of over 4,000 businesses showed that 40 percent would be fairly nervous or very nervous about hiring employees from the public sector.

'We are expecting UK unemployment to increase further over the next year, and to peak at around 2.65m before starting to decline.

'These figures show that growth in earnings has weakened, particularly in the private sector, and reinforces the case against an early increase in interest rates. Since there is little risk of a wage-price spiral, the MPC should postpone interest rate increases until later in the year when the recovery is more secure.'

The national jobs figures included 462,300 women, the highest figure since October 1996 - thought to be due to changes to benefits rules seeing women switching from income support to job seeker's allowance.

This morning the Department for Work and Pensions highlighted the ONS' overall unemployment figures, which showed a drop of 17,000 in the quarter to February to 2.48 million, the first cut since last autumn.

It added that the number of unemployed young people not in full time education also fell 15,000 (from 681,000 to 666,000) over the quarter.

Employment minister Chris Grayling claimed the rise in employment had been driven entirely by growth in the private sector.

He said: 'These figures are another step in the right direct direction, it's good news to see a rise in the number of full time jobs in the private sector and the fall in unemployment is welcome.

'It is also reassuring to see a fall in the number of young people not in full time education who are unemployed.

'However, there are challenges ahead and our priority is to continue to support the economy, by reducing the deficit and putting in place measures to encourage growth in the private sector.'

local authority February March

Breckland 2,262 2,257

Broadland 1,545 1,508

Fenland 2,066 2,072

Forest Heath 906 900

Great Yarmouth 3,837 3,680

King`s Lynn and West Norfolk 2,783 2,808

North Norfolk 1,732 1,701

Norwich 4,375 4,392

South Norfolk 1,570 1,508

St Edmundsbury 1,563 1,538

Waveney 3,260 3,165