The Government welcomed a nationwide fall in both unemployment and the number of dole claimants, but admitted there were too many people in part-time jobs wanting full-time work.
The country’s jobless total fell by 45,000 to 2.6 million in the quarter to March – the lowest since last summer – while the number on jobseeker’s allowance was down by 13,700 to 1.59 million.
Yorkshire was the best-performing region, with unemployment down 24,000 – more than half the total fall nationwide, countering rises in London, the South East, the North West and North West.
However, the region’s overall unemployment rate of nine per cent remains slightly worse than the national average.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, Employment Minister Chris Grayling said he was cautiously optimistic about the latest figures.
“It’s obviously positive news,” he said. “We’ve had a few bad months recently for Yorkshire, and so I’m very pleased to see things moving in the right direction.
“I don’t want to be over-optimistic because we are living in difficult times, but I hope this is a trend that continues.
“What’s happening in the region is that private sector employment is growing much faster than public sector employment is falling, and that’s obviously a step in the right direction.
“We want to see the region have stronger manufacturing and research and development, which have always been integral to the local economy.”
There are suggestions, however, that the positive figures may be in part a reflection of the time of year. With many local councils now embarking on fresh rounds of cuts as their budgets are slashed again for the new financial year, there are fears unemployment will begin to rise once the figures for April and May are taken into account.
Mr Grayling said: “In the first quarter of the last financial year we saw a big drop in public sector employment, and that stabilised in the later part of the year.
“I hope we don’t see that degree of discrepancy again this year, but we are going to see ups and downs. “I wouldn’t try and pretend this is part of a sustained downward trend for unemployment – I’d love it to be that, but I’m certainly not going to forecast that.
“I think we’ve got some ups and down still to experience. But at least it’s going down a bit rather than up – that’s the most important thing at the moment.”
Worrying hot-spots across the region remain. In the north of Hull, there are more than 43 people chasing every vacancy – the third-highest rate in the country.
Hull North Labour MP Diana Johnson said: “With 43.6 job-seekers chasing every job in Hull North, it’s clear that we have a massive challenge with the quality and quantity of job opportunities available. With Britain falling into a double dip recession that’s made in Downing Street, young people in Hull North are paying the price.”
Prime Minister David Cameron told the Commons the unemployment figures were good news but that the Government was “not remotely complacent”,
“It’s welcome that we have had the largest rise in employment for over a year – the number of people in work since the last election is up by 370,000, private sector jobs are up by 600,000,” he said.
“We are not remotely complacent about this, because although there is good news about youth unemployment and the claimant count coming down, there is still too many people in part-time work who want full-time work, and also we still have the challenge of tackling long-term unemployment.”