Business leaders blame Christmas and bad weather for Plymouth unemployment rise
PLYMOUTH'S jobless total rose for the first time in a year last month, official figures show.
The number of people out of work in the city grew by 349 from 5,787 in December to 6,136 in January.
Unemployment had been steadily falling throughout 2012, but yesterday's figures show the first jobless jump since this time last year.
David Parlby, chief executive of Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, says the rise may be down to job-hunters filling temporary Christmas posts.
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He said: "These figures are of concern.
"It might be due to seasonal factors such as Christmas trading or jobs over Christmas no longer being available.
"But the national picture is showing an increase in employment overall, so we need to establish why these rather disappointing figures have occurred."
Tim Jones, chairman of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "This is not good news for those who are in that position, but if you look at the trend through the years the most difficult time is always that particular month, post-Christmas and with the bad weather and low trading you get a downturn.
"If you look back this pretty much plays out every year.
"This is not a surprise to me, but in the context of the economic woes we have got there is a general trend towards a slow improvement, and I expect it to pick up over the next few months."
Plymouth's unemployment total is down more than 800 from the 6,944 recorded in January last year, an 11 per cent drop.
Unemployment across the South West fell by 6,000 to 150,000 in the quarter to December, giving a jobless rate of 5.5 per cent, which remains the lowest in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Council leader Tudor Evans, said: "It's heartening to see that unemployment has decreased by over 11 per cent compared with this time last year, but as always these figures giving a snapshot in time should be viewed with some caution.
"I suspect the increase seen in January can largely be attributed to the end of seasonal work contracts – many people would have been employed in Christmas temp jobs which came to an end in the New Year.
"Tackling unemployment remains a top priority for this council and our partners. We are working hard to grow the local economy in Plymouth to give people good job opportunities, with fair pay and benefits able to compete with other big cities in the UK."
Across the UK, almost 30 million people were in work at the end of 2012, an increase of 154,000 on the quarter to September, and the highest total since records began in 1971.