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More people are in work but 'no room for complacency'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 18, 2012

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Some 15,000 more people have found jobs in the South West over the last three months as the region shared the spoils of employment reaching a record high.

Employment grew in the quarter to August by 212,000 to 29.59 million, the highest since records began in 1971.

In the six counties of the South West, the number of people in work increased 15,000 – up 53,000 on last year – meaning 2.55 million people have jobs.

This measure is important as it indicates the private sector is creating jobs quicker than people are being made redundant in state-funded jobs as a result of spending cuts.

Nationally, unemployment fell by 50,000 in the same period to 2.53 million, the lowest since the spring, giving a jobless rate of 7.9%.

The South West figures were flat as the same number of people were out of work compared to the previous quarter.

But as the regional unemployment total still stands at 158,000, the figure is 19,000 lower than last year.

The region has the lowest unemployment rate in the UK, with 5.8% of people looking for work.

Ministers were yesterday cautious about reading too much into one set of numbers, erring away from suggestions that "green shoots" of recovery were emerging despite Britain still being in recession.

"We are seeing positive signs in these figures – but we are not complacent about the challenges we face," Employment Minister Mark Hoban told the Western Morning News.

Devon and Cornwall's claimant count – the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance and the only way to measure unemployment locally – was 27,310 in September, a monthly fall of 435 claimants, or a 2% drop. The count is around 1,380 lower than the same month last year.

But the picture was more mixed across the region. The claimant count for the Devon county council area was 8,985 (a rate of 2%), down 265 month-on-month, and Plymouth's was 6,275 (3.6%), down 200 on the month.

But in Cornwall, the claimant count is 8,630 (2.6%), or five more than in August, and Torbay's 3,420 (4.3%), a monthly increase of 20.

Nationally, the numbers claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fell by 4,000 in September to 1.57 million, the third consecutive monthly fall and the lowest total since July 2011.

The Office for National Statistics also reported that part-time employment increased by 125,000 between March and May to a record high of 8.13 million.

At Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons, David Cameron acknowledged there were still "enormous economic challenges" facing the country but he said reforms were being made which could safeguard the UK's place in the world.

Labour and unions said there was still a "stubborn underlying problem" of the long-term unemployed, while a business group said the UK economy had returned to positive growth in the third quarter of 2012.

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