New superstore openings in Rustington have contributed to strong employment figures in Arun, according to one job centre manager.
The number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance in Arun was slashed by more than 40 per cent since 2013, despite levels rising in the past two years.
In July 2013, there were 1,825 claimants – but in July this year, 1,025 people made claims, 43 per cent fewer than four years ago.
However, this is a nine per cent increase from July 2015, when there were 930 claimants.
Karen Brooks works at the Jobcentre in High Street, Bognor Regis. She said the rise could be explained by the introduction of universal credit, which may have ‘skewed the figures’.
While Arun’s overall unemployment rates were higher than Worthing, Karen’s outlook for the area’s job prospects was positive, particularly with the new openings of Aldi and Next superstores in Manor Retail Park in Rustington.
She said: “The economy is much stronger than we anticipated. We haven’t seen any reduction in job vacancies and we have had big firms open in the area, such as Aldi, Next and Rolls Royce in Bognor.
“It gives the local economy a boost and it shows business confidence in the area.”
In those aged between 18 and 24, levels of claims have decreased by 12 per cent in the past 12 months, ahead of the local trend. This could be explained by the new store openings, which would offer young adults part time work.
In the past 12 months, December had the lowest unemployment rates in Arun, with 985 jobseeker’s allowance claims. The highest levels were in April, when numbers steadily reached 1,150 claims – a 14 per cent increase of 165.
Karen explained that this trend reflected people with temporary Christmas work coming to an end of their contracts.
However, in contrast to Worthing and Adur, benefit claims have steadily dropped among 18 and 24 year olds and overall since May.
In July, 4.58 million people were in employment in the South East – a record high, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.
The unemployment rate in the region was 3.2 per cent – 1.2 per cent below the national average.
She said that overall, the employment figures in coastal areas of the county were strong: “We have a very buoyant labour market and the county and district councils do quite a lot of work to encourage businesses into the area.”
Nationally, employment rates hit a record high, with 75.1 per cent of people – 32.07 million – in employment. In the South East, this figure was four per cent higher.