FIGURES released today show that just over 64,200 people were claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in Greater Manchester in February – a decrease of 800 (1.2%) when compared with the figure for January 2014 of 65,100.

This suggests that the trend of monthly falls in JSA claimant numbers has returned, following last month’s slight increase as a result of temporary seasonal jobs associated with the holiday period coming to an end. The North West saw a smaller monthly decline of 0.7%, while JSA claimants in Great Britain rose very slightly by 0.1%.

As a proportion of the resident working-age population however, 3.7% of people in Greater Manchester were claiming JSA in February – which remains higher than the North West (3.4%) and Great Britain (3.0%).

Youth unemployment (JSA claimants aged 16–24) in Greater Manchester remained virtually the same at just over 15,600 on a monthly basis between January and February. On an annual basis however, the number of youth JSA claimants is now 33.5% (7,900) lower than this time last year.

Long-term (more than six months) claimants in Greater Manchester decreased in February 2014 to 28,200, down by 1,100 (3.8%). On an annual basis the number of long-term claimants is now 23.7% (8,800) lower than this time last year.

The North West (23.6%) and Great Britain (22.2%) also saw similar annual declines in long-term claimants.

Commenting on the data Stephen Overall, principal for employment and skills at New Economy, said: “The numbers of JSA claimants are falling once more after the slight rise last month as Christmas work came to an end – and are falling faster in Greater Manchester than the rest of the country.

“The city region is in a significantly better position than a year ago, having seen 22,300 people leave the claimant count since February 2013, a decrease of just under 26%. Longer-term claimants are also beginning to feel the benefits of the gradual increase of business confidence, although the numbers of younger people on JSA remains troublingly high.

“However, especially as this confidence returns, we should be cautious about using the numbers of JSA claimants alone to reflect what is actually happening in the labour market. There remain uncertainties, particularly in regard to how JSA data is being collated under the new Universal Credit system.

“Greater Manchester has four areas that are testing the Universal Credit and this may be affecting the numbers of claimants.

“Furthermore, we do not yet understand fully whether sanctioning by Job Centre Plus is driving people off benefits but not into work. Further incentivising work through benefits reform, against the background of a slowly improving economy, is likely to be a theme of the Chancellor’s budget today.”

• New Economy delivers policy, strategy and research for Greater Manchester’s economic growth and prosperity. To achieve this, it provides economic intelligence and regular analysis to underpin strategic direction.

As the conurbation’s economic think-tank and advisor on best policy practice, it leads on idea generation and project initiation up to the point of delivery.

New Economy’s priorities are planning and housing, environment, science and innovation, skills and employment, internationalisation and European policy.