WIGAN’S amazing economic renaissance continued a pace in August with almost another 1,000 people removed from the dole queue.
The number of folk claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance is now lower than it was before the recession took hold six years ago and the unemployment rate of 2.4 per cent is one of the lowest the borough has enjoyed for many years too.
There was further good news for younger members of the area’s potential workforce.
A further drop of 255 claimants in August saw the total of 18 to 24-year-olds taking the allowance now only just hanging on to four figures.
As recently as September 2009 there were around 3,500 younger workers claiming benefits. That was one of the highest figures in the country per head of population and constituted more than a third of all of the Wigan borough citizens looking for work.
So a drop to 1,005 in the space of four years is quite a turn-around.
A growing enthusiasm among local employers for taking on apprentices has been credited with helping to improve the situation.
Wigan’s overall unemployment rate is better than Greater Manchester’s (2.4 per cent compared to 2.7)
And since January 2013, the number of borough residents claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance has tumbled from a recession high of 9,785 to 4,895 last month.
The leader of Wigan Council, Lord Smith, said he was pleased with the direction the claimant figures were going in.
He added: “There are a number of factors coming together in Wigan. One is the improvement in the national economy.
“But what we have done differently in Wigan compared to other parts of the country is to understand who the long-term unemployed are and tried to tackle the wider issues that are causing their situation, such as ill health.
“Social services and health workers have their parts to play here.
“It isn’t because these people are lazy; they are probably not fit in the more general sense and some have mental health issues.
“There have been successes and I would hope it will continue although I think we might be getting closer to the hard core of the long-term unemployed.
“I want as many people to be in work, but we must also ensure that these are good, proper jobs: not semi-permanent, low-paid or zero hours-type work.”
His concerns about the quality of jobs was echoed by Lord Smith’s council deputy and cabinet member for economic development, Coun David Molyneux.
He said: “I am a bit worried about what sort of jobs are being created. We have to ensure that Wigan is generating as many well-paid and permanent posts as possible.”