Job figures prompt fears for economy

PUBLISHED: 11:50 24 August 2015

Archant

Colin Wright, chairman of Honiton and District Chamber of Commerce, was 'shocked' to learn of the JSA claimant figures.

There are signs that Honiton’s economy is stalling after new figures revealed that the number of residents on the dole increased by nine per cent in just a month.

The figures, from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), recorded 98 people receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) - not in work - in the EX14 postcode up until the end of July.

While the increase is not huge, what is significant is that almost without exception JSA numbers over the past few years in East Devon’s seven towns have gone down between February and August.

A massive chunk of East Devon’s economy is based on tourism - £1 in every £10 is generated by the industry.

And because many jobs are temporary and summer seasonal, in the most part jobs increase gradually from February to a peak in August before starting to drop off again from September.

According to the ONS, almost a third of all people who work in tourism in the district are between the age of 16 and 25, and two-thirds of those who have signed on in Honiton are women under the age of 24.

Colin Wright, chairman of Honiton and District Chamber of Commerce, was ‘shocked’ to learn of the JSA claimant figures.

He said: “Honiton, over the last two years, has bucked the current trend for reductions in businesses in the high street. It is a well-known fact that when London sneezes, Devon catches a cold.

“However, we are working hard and we know that some of the empty shops in Honiton will be filled shortly. We have always strived to improve the town centre and Honiton’s tourism.

“I know that bed and breakfasts are suffering in this area. Seven years ago, people would call up months in advance and book for a week. Now, they are calling in the middle of the week, staying for a couple of days and moving on.

“Having said that, in the last two weeks, business has picked up, which is encouraging for Honiton as we enter the summer months.”

The trend is right across East Devon – the biggest increase in JSA claimants over this period is in Sidmouth - an increase of 18 per cent.

In Axminster the increase is 16 per cent, Seaton 19 per cent, and Exmouth seven per cent. During the same period, there have also been increases in Budleigh Salterton, and Ottery.

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