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Unemployment rate falls, but Swaffham store has eight times more applications than jobs

Unemployment rates in West Norfolk have fallen to their lowest level for more than five years, according to figures released this week.

But the demand for new jobs still appears to be as strong as ever after the managers of a new supermarket claimed they had received more than eight-and-a-half times as many applications as there were vacancies available.

Just under seven per cent of the workforce in West Norfolk and the neighbouring Breckland district are described as unemployed in the statistics released by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday.

The West Norfolk figure, which is broadly in line with the national average, is now at its lowest level since 2009.

Meanwhile, the number of people who are out of work and claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) dropped by more than 200 last month in West Norfolk to 2,133, the lowest figure since the autumn of 2008.

In Breckland, the JSA total fell by 134 to 1,616, the lowest since October 2008.

And a similar pattern is being recorded in North Norfolk, which covers Fakenham, where claimant levels fell to 1,016 in April, its lowest figure since September 2008.

But, despite the encouraging jobs figures, one employer that isn’t short of would-be staff is the supermarket chain Tesco, which revealed it received more than 1,200 applications for the 140 jobs set to be created at its new store in Swaffham.

That equates to an average of more than eight applications for every job available and around one third of applicants were interviewed.

The branch on Castle Acre Road, which was formally handed over to the chain last month, is expected to open next month.

And officials say they have been overwhelmed by the demand for work there.

Store manager Scott Garrod said: “The response we’ve had has been fantastic and it’s been great that we have been able to interview so many local people.

“We wanted to make sure we had a great team so that we could offer the best possible service to the local community. I am confident that my team will be able to serve Swaffham really well.”

Ministers say the latest falls in unemployment, which have been accompanied by record numbers of people in work, show their economic plans are working.

However, critics argue that not enough is being done to help those who are long-term unemployed.

 

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