Unemployment down in Sheffield, claims government, amid conflicting figures

Unemployment has fallen sharply in Sheffield, according to the Government, despite one set of figures showing a rise in the number of benefit claimants looking for work.

Thursday, 18th July 2019, 2:05 pm

Nearly 9,700 claimants are now seeking employment in Sheffield, data published today by the Office for National Statistics shows, which is an increase of 855 in the last year.

But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) claims the introduction of Universal Credit – which is replacing a number of different benefits, including Jobseeker’s Allowance – means those figures are misleading.

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There are now nearly 10,000 claimants in Sheffield seeking work, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics

Under Universal Credit, it says, a broader span of claimants are required to look for work than with Jobseeker’s Allowance, meaning the claimant count was always going to rise once it was in place.

That’s why it has produced its own ‘Alternative Claimant Count’, which it says paints a truer picture of unemployment rates by modelling what the count would have been had Universal Credit been in place nationwide since 2013, when it began being rolled out.

By that measure, the number of claimants within Sheffield is considerably higher, standing at 12,555 in May this year, but has fallen by 10.3 per cent in the last year and 36.5 per cent over the last five years.

In Doncaster, the alternative count fell by two per cent in the last year, while in both Barnsley and Rotherham it rose by two per cent over the same period.

Across Great Britain, it was up by three per cent compared with last year, at just over 1.26 million, but has fallen considerably from nearly 1.7 million in May 2014.

Nigel Coleman, partnership manager at Jobcentre Plus, claimed the alternative figures for Sheffield showed the region’s job market was ‘very buoyant’.

He said there were lots of entry-level openings in and around the city, especially for warehouse workers with Amazon and Clipper Logistics, which provides services for the fashion retailer PrettyLittleThing at its site near Meadowhall, and for call centre staff at Team Knowhow’s offices just off Sheffield Parkway.

He also said there was plenty of cleaning work at student lodgings around the city, and opportunities for people to get on-the-job training within the house building and railway industries.

And he added that there would be hundreds of positions up for grabs at the Meadowhall job fair, which is expected to take place this September, and at a hospitality job fair being hosted at the Hilton Hotel in October.

“When you look at the UK we have massive growth in employment, including in South Yorkshire, which is very buoyant,” he said.

Asked why the majority of openings he cited within Sheffield were for low-paid work, he said these were the ‘high volume’ opportunities for entry level work but they could lead to higher-paid employment and there was no shortage of better paid positions available in the city.

The DWP said the latest employment statistics showed the UK’s 3.8 per cent unemployment rate remained the lowest since 1974, and wages had risen by 1.7 per cent in the last year – outstripping inflation.

In Yorkshire and the Humber, it said, more than 3,000 jobs had been created in the last year, including 300 at Lidl’s new distribution centre in Doncaster.

Employment minister Alok Sharma said: “Wages outpacing inflation for 16 months in a row, more people in work than ever before and joint-record female employment means better prospects for many thousands of UK families and shows the continued resilience of the UK labour market.”