More people across the Fylde coast are getting back to work after new figures revealed the dole queue has been cut by almost a third in just a year.
Community leaders and business chiefs today hailed the “excellent news” after official figures revealed 3,247 people claimed Jobseekers Allowance last month in Blackpool.
There is no doubt there are more jobs around... we are doing more to find people employmentJulia Toddington
That is 1,853 fewer than in February 2014 – a drop of 36 per cent.
In Fylde 573 people were signing on – 399 down on last year and a decrease of 41 per cent on February 2014.
In Wyre, the number of claimants fell 553 – or 41 per cent – to 811.
Job Centre bosses say the reduction in those claiming Job Seekers Allowance was down to an upturn in the economy.
And their claim is supported by national figures which show unemployment in the North has fallen by 2,000 in the last quarter of 2014. The numbers for England and Wales show more people in work than since the beginning of the credit crunch in 2008.
But one Blackpool MP today sounded a note of caution, claiming part-time work and zero-hours contracts mean the figures do not show the whole picture.
Julia Toddington, manager of Blackpool and St Annes Job Centres said: “There is no doubt there are more jobs around and we are doing more than ever to help people find employment.
“There is a genuine upturn in the economy and we are beginning to reap the benefits here on the Fylde coast.”
Alan Cavill, Blackpool Council’s assistant chief executive, said: “If more people are coming off Jobseekers Allowance and getting in to employment then that is great news.
“As a council, we are always helping people to get into employment.
“Our work experience programmes have given more than 100 people new skills and the confidence needed to apply for jobs, while we work closely with private sector businesses to help them expand and hire staff.
“Large construction works like Queens Park, Rigby Road and the Anchorsholme seawall project are getting local people back in to work as well as creating apprenticeships.”
But Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said: “While it is true there are more jobs coming onto the market, the figures do not show the true picture.
“For example, they do not reflect the fact that many people are now in part-time or temporary work or on zero hours contracts.
“While, this means they are taken off the unemployment statistics, it does not take into account that their employment is very unstable. This, combined with the seasonal nature of a lot of Blackpool’s employment, shows that the picture here is not as rosy as these figures would suggest.”
Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said the signs were encouraging but maintained there was still a lot of work to be done.
He added: “National statistics show 80 per cent of newly-created jobs are full-time.
“In Blackpool, jobs are becoming available in both large and small companies and the Blackpool Airport new enterprise zone is all about creating jobs.
“Zero-hours contracts can be a first step back into work, but they shouldn’t be the last. We must make sure they benefit workers and employers.
“This is where Universal Credit will help people in places like Blackpool where work is often seasonal, it’s trying to smooth out the transition from no employment to employment.
“I’m pleased unemployment continues to fall, but in my constituency, three people went onto Jobseeker’s Allowance last month, which is three too many.
“Many of those still looking for work are in vulnerable groups, so we must help when they want to find work, or stay in work, through early intervention and support.”
Hugh Evans, deputy chief executive of North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce added: “We run a number of schemes and have helped around 50 people set up their own business in the past year. We have certainly seen a rise in optimism and when businesses become more optimistic they start investing in new processes, jobs and training. We have not seen an increase in zero-hours contracts .”
Jobs currently up for grabs
These are a selection of the jobs currently being advertised in the resort...
Charity fundraiser for local military charity.
Blackpool. Commission only, self-employed.
Guaranteed in excess of national minimum wage of £300 p/w.
Class 1 drivers required for immediate start to drive a new fleet of sleeper cabs. £28,600 per annum plus £26 night out money.
Experienced plumber. Full driving licence required for company van.
Hours 8am-4.30pm Monday-Friday. Benefits include pension and death in service
Casual stock counters required.
Zero-hours contract. Opportunity to progress to permanent work.
CASE STUDY ONE: ‘I bounced back’
Trainer Steven Robinson found himself unemployed when his job with a Manchester Community Housing company came to an end.
Steven, 29, of Brockholes Crescent, Poulton, said: “I went into the workplace after doing A-Levels at college and worked as a researcher.
“The job was funded by the Future Jobs Fund but it came to an end in 2012.
“I was 25, had no job and went on to Jobseeker’s Allowance for two years.
“It was really hard, they wanted to put me in a retail job but my skills were in business.
“I wanted a career and not just a job. The Job Centre put me in touch with the Chamber of Commerce when the New Enterprise Allowance scheme began and I was referred.
“I came with a load of ideas for starting my own business, but basically it was me they believed in. They made me focus on what would make money.
“I was sent on workshops to learn marketing, book-keeping and tax courses run by HMRC.
“The NEA officer Jennifer Swarbrick set me up with a mentor and gave me huge support.
“I have been running Socinate for about a year and a half, giving digital marketing advice to small and medium-sized businesses.
“I was given a £1,000 start-up grant to help with business costs such as insurance, a website, advertising etc.
“I paid that back within six months and I now have an office where clients can come to see me, I get referrals from satisfied customers and I’m earning a good living.
“Things are going great.”
CASE STUDY TWO: ‘I just had to work’
When her employer went bust almost a year ago, Dawn Markey was determined not to be out of work for long.
The 55-year-old, of North Shore, said: “I was gutted.
“I worked behind a bar for five years and then the company went into liquidation.”
But she faced an uphill struggle getting back into work as she was required to apply for jobs online – and had no experience with computers.
But after securing a training placement with Blackpool-based redundancy support specialists Intraining, Dawn was able to get back on her feet.
“They were ever so good,” she said. “I thought I could never do it. But I’m never out of work long. I was going round handing out CVs.”
The lack of options meant she took temporary work at a town centre shop, which ended just after Christmas, but is now looking forward to starting another job in the coming days. She’s having her induction as a food and beverage host today and is waiting to learn when she will start.
“Last year was the first time I’ve taken seasonal work but I just had to be back in work,” she said.
“I’ve left my options open and shown there’s life in the old girl yet.”
CASE STUDY THREE: ‘It was hard’
Since he worked on the recent upgrade of the tram line in Blackpool, Phil Shaylor found work hard to come by.
After picking up a few shifts as a cleaner at Sainsburys on Talbot Road for a month, the 34-year-old was looking for work again.
But last week he started a job as a gatesman working on the sea wall at Bispham.
He said: “I was applying for a lot of jobs and finding it very difficult.
“I was ringing employers up and they were saying the job had been taken weeks ago or they had no work at the moment.
“I’m just glad to be doing something.”
He is one of the latest graduates of the Fylde coast’s award-winning Build Up project, which helps jobseekers get the skills they need to find work.
He added: “This is the kind of job I have wanted to do.”