Jobless numbers in Kent start to fall
The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in Kent flatlined last month.
There were 18,245 potential workers on either jobseeker’s allowance or universal credit in April, a decline of five on the previous month, according to the Office for National Statistics.
It is the first time the county’s total has fallen since November last year. The largest increase was a modest 25 in Swale, giving it a claimant count of 1,865.
It was cancelled out by a decline of the same number in Shepway, putting its total at 1,350.
The largest fall was in Maidstone, down 30 to 1,215. There was no movement in three districts – Ashford at 1,075, Dartford at 740 and Sevenoaks at 525.
“We have seen an overall reduction in Kent,” said Ashford Jobcentre manager Hamera Ahmad.
“Over the year we have seen a 44% reduction for young people on jobseeker’s allowance, a 9% reduction in over 25s and a decline of 17.8% in all.
“It’s looking good. In April we had a big recruitment drive with the retailer B&M and we will be running two recruitment days next month for the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in Ashford.”
Canterbury and Thanet saw 15 people leave the dole queue, bringing their claimant counts to 1,215 and 2,730 respectively.
Small rises were seen in Gravesham, up 20 to 1,375, Medway, up 15 to 3,605, with an increase of five in Dover to 1,345, Tonbridge to 710 and Tunbridge Wells to 495.
In the South East, unemployment fell by 4,000 to 176,000 in the first three months of the year, giving it an unemployment rate of 3.7%. Nearly 4.52 million are in work in the region, a rate of 78.3%.
Average wages before bonuses grew 2.1% over the last year and there are around 745,000 vacancies available in the jobs market nationally.
Bill Fox, FSB Kent regional chairman, said: “The unemployment rate remains at a historically low level, but there are warning signs that the economy is not performing as well as many had hoped.
"Our members’ confidence remains comparatively low, with businesses looking to contain costs amid a challenging policy environment.
“Small businesses are dealing with a raft of new cost challenges, including the national living wage and pensions auto-enrolment deadlines. To meet these challenges employers are looking for ways to keep costs down.
“Small firms will be looking for some reassurance that no new challenges are on the horizon."
Across the UK, there were 1.69 million unemployed people in the three months to March, down 2,000, giving the country an unemployment rate of 5.1%.