West Norfolk’s jobs market is on the up, despite unemployment rates remaining above the regional average, officials have claimed.
New figures released on Wednesday show that five per cent of the borough’s workforce is unemployed, the lowest total for nearly seven years.
The number of people out of work and claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance also fell to another record low last month.
However, the total unemployment rate for the borough remains above the East of England average of 4.7 per cent.
And, though the proportion of people in work has risen to almost 73 per cent, that figure is more than three per cent below the regional average.
But, speaking after the latest figures were released, Carly Chapman, district operations leader for Job Centre Plus in East Anglia, insisted there was still much for West Norfolk to celebrate.
She pointed that JSA claims had fallen by six per cent last month alone and 35 per cent in the last year.
She said: “That is a really healthy position to be in. We’re moving in the right direction.”
Ministers have claimed this week’s statistics, which include the total number of employed people in the East of England reaching three million for the first time, show their plans are working.
But critics have regularly raised concerns over the plight of workers employed on zero-hours contracts and the number of people who are classed as self-employed.
However, Mrs Chapman said that around 80 per cent of people in work nationally are on permanent contracts.
She added: “For some people, zero-hours contracts are a great foot in the door.”
Almost one in seven workers in West Norfolk are also classed as self-employed, well above both the regional and national averages.
But Mrs Chapman played down the trend, adding: “If that suits people’s personal circumstances, that’s great.”
Residents in West Norfolk will only receive benefits in their current form until next March when the government’s Universal Credit programme is rolled out in the borough.
The system is already operating in around half of the country’s Job Centres and is expected to be in use in the remainder during 2016.
Officials say the system simplifies benefit claims, encourages work and helps people who are employed to be better off.
But opponents fear the measure will actually leave some worse off.