Number of jobless in city rockets

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The number of people signing on the dole in Edinburgh has rocketed, dashing hopes of some stability for the city’s economy.

New government figures show there are now 11,248 people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in the Edinburgh council area, which is 6.6 per cent ahead of last year. The figure is also nearly double the level it was at in August 2008 as the economic downturn took hold.

Nearly one in three of the people signing on are below the age of 24, which has sparked fears of a “generation of dispossessed youth” leading to increased crime and disorder.

The increase in the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in Edinburgh was still lower than the increase across Scotland, where Jobseeker’s Allowance was claimed by 145,700 people – up 7.1 per cent on August 2010.

Graham Birse, managing director of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “Employment in Scotland and in Edinburgh has been remarkably resilient considering the depth of the recession.

“Scotland’s unemployment has also not increased by as much as the rest of the UK so it may well be that what we are looking at is a ‘lag factor’ and Edinburgh’s unemployment has begun to creep up in line with other areas.”

He added: “We have an ongoing scandal of Edinburgh’s position of number 32 out of 32 [local authorities] for state school leavers’ employment prospects and that carries the threat that we may be creating a generation of dispossessed youth, with all the problems that may well develop.”

Nearly a quarter of all jobs in Edinburgh are within the public sector and there are fears that major job cuts at organisations such as the city council and NHS Lothian will continue to impact on numbers claiming unemployment benefits.

Within Edinburgh’s parliamentary constituency areas, Edinburgh East suffered the biggest increase in people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), which surged 8.9 per cent in August, to 2767. But the figure is still lower than Edinburgh North and Leith, with 2871 JSA claimants, up 6.2 per cent on a year ago.

East Lothian saw an 8.6 per cent increase in the last year in the number of people claiming JSA, while the figure rocketed by 11.5 per cent in Midlothian.

Last month, the city council unveiled a £750,000 drive to tackle youth unemployment by offering 50 four-year apprenticeships within the authority, as well as training for another 80 young people. The “Edinburgh Guarantee” scheme will also include apprenticeships at private firms.

Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, said: “Unemployment is traditionally a lagging indicator in any economic recovery, and remains one of our greatest economic challenges.

“The increases recorded in Edinburgh indicate the scale of this challenge. Notably, despite these increases, unemployment in the Capital remains below the averages for Scotland.”

mblackley@edinburghnews.com

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