Published: 00:00, 31 December 2016
The official figures might show unemployment on the rise – but the outlook is not so grim, say job experts.
The number out of work is, in fact, going down according to Mark Hurry and Alison Culshaw, managers at Job Centre Plus in Kent, and zero-hour contracts are not always dirty words.
In November 2015 there were 16,485 people unemployed and registered with Job Centre Plus. Exactly 12 months before in 2014, there were 19,204 and in 2013 there were 27,552.
This November the figure rose to 18,270 but, according to Mr Hurry, that is not a true refection of those on Job Seekers Allowance, as it is also starting to include people on Universal Credit.
Universal Credit is a single monthly payment for people in or out of work, which merges together benefits, JSA and working tax credits.
It means people who are in work or who are on other benefits are being added into the statistics with the unemployed.
Kent is moving towards a full service in Universal Credit in May, with Dover being the first centre to fully convert, but some people are already on it, and they are distorting the figures, until a new way to display the statistics is created.
Mrs Culshaw said: “Despite the rise, we’ve certainly seen a drop in unemployment.
“And the rise of zero-hour contracts does really work for some people. It doesn’t suit everyone of course, but some people need flexibility, depending on their personal circumstances.”
It has been a busy time for Mr Hurry and Mrs Culshaw, with the annual rush for Christmas temporary jobs.
This year, the hunt for Bluewater Christmas elves and 1,000 temporary Royal Mail vacancies were just two things that kept people in work.
But rather than a grim January to look forward to, with people being let go, the pair – who have 57 years’ experience at the job centre between them – say it does not work like that.
Mr Hurry found his first employment as a butcher through the job centre when he was just a teenager and said: “It used to be that there were great surges and dips in employment depending on the time of year, but that is not so pronounced.
“Last year we didn’t get the January fall out we half expected, and we imagine 2017 to be the same.
“People often find even with a temporary role that they are kept on, or recommended for another position within the company.
“In February things get busy again in the hospitality sector, then Easter is always manic.”
The Job Centre has changed in recent years and each client is assigned their own consultant.
They are helped to create an email account, a strong CV, offered free educational courses to improve their English and maths, and IT skills.
The centres also run a Twitter hour on Thursdays between 11am and noon, with jobs in Kent listed.”