Are Daventry’s jobless figures an ‘economic miracle’?

Job seekers allowance claims in Daventry district have dropped below one per cent
Job seekers allowance claims in Daventry district have dropped below one per cent

The percentage of people claiming job seekers allowance (JSA)across the district fell below one per cent last week.

Official data released on May 13 showed the number of people claiming JSA in the district stood at 461 on April 9, down from 496 the month before.

That now means that Daventry district’s claimant figure stands at 0.9 per cent – nearly half the countywide figure of 1.7 per cent.

However, the actual number of people unemployed is likely to be higher as some will not be claiming JSA.

National unemployment is calculated with a survey to find those out of work and actively looking for work. Local figures are estimated based on that. The most recent Office of National Statistics calculation shows 1,400 out of work in the district in December when 867 people were claiming JSA.

Daventry’s MP Chris Heaton-Harris said: “We are fortunate to be living in an area of very low unemployment.

“There’s plenty of evidence out there that salaries are beginning to rise as well. I would like to think people might be beginning to feel that the improvement in the economy on a national level is reaching them locally.

“To be honest the figures for the district are an economic miracle. When I was at university I was always told you can’t get unemployment below three per cent. We are now below one per cent.

“I know this is a smaller geographic area but it is significant.

“I’d like to thank the people and the businesses across my constituency that are taking on more people – they are the people creating these jobs.

“There are 461 claimants at the moment – if you go to the Job Centre in Daventry I think there’s quite a few more job vacancies.

“We are a constituency of hard working people and when there’s an opportunity to work people take it.

“Take a look at the iCon, you only have to walk through the front door and look to your left to see a list of the businesses in there at the moment.

“There are also several businesses that started out in there being ‘incubated’ who have since outgrown it and moved out into the town.

“The firm that works out of the Moot Hall started in the iCon just a few years ago, and now it employs 17 people.

“I’ve regularly spoken to entrepreneur groups and there are businesses starting in the district just about every day.

“It’s local people investing in local firms and employing local people. I’m just immensely proud of the figures – they are quite amazing.”

Abigail Campbell, who sits as a Labour councillor on DDC and stood as that party’s candidate in the General Election, welcomed the figures, but with a caveat. She said: “It has to be welcomed, and we do live in a high employment area.

“My problem with the figures is they don’t show the other side of the problem – those on zero-hours contracts in insecure work, part time workers and those who are under-employed.

“I know from the recent campaign that these are problems we have in the area. People who may be in work, but not in full-time work and who want to do more hours.

“The other problem is pay levels. I read that in the Daventry constituency half of women on part time contracts aren’t paid the living wage.”

The living wage is higher than the minimum wage, reviewed regularly, and set at a level where people should be able to afford to pay their bills, rent or mortgage, and live a life, without the need for the state to supplement their wages.

Currently the national minimum wage is £6.50 per hour for those aged over 21. The living wage outside of London stands at £7.85.

Cllr Campbell said: “Despite the national economy improving, we’re not seeing an associated rise in productivity or tax receipts, and that’s because people are not being paid enough. Not only does that hit tax, but people spend less too. Low wages are holding our economy back.

“I think if unemployment stays low, if businesses are more confident, and if there’s a bit of pressure from the top, it might start to change. But without all three I don’t think we’ll see wages rising quickly in the near future.

“The key thing for me is that Daventry has a low level of people claiming JSA, we have a low level of unemployment – that means people are working. But the town also has a food bank.

“Something isn’t right there.”