THERE were further positive signs for the St Helens economy after unemployment figures showed the number of people claiming out-of-work benefits continues to decrease.

Numbers receiving Job Seekers Allowance dropped below 4,000 in June for the first time since October 2008.

There were 3,825 claimants, making it the fourth successive month a decrease has been shown.

And the number of people claiming JSA for longer than 12 months is at its lowest level since April 2012.

However, the area does remain above the national and regional averages in the percentage of working age residents on JSA.

There were 3.4 per cent of residents claiming in the borough last month compared to an average of 2.7 per cent across the north west and 2.4 per cent across the country.

“It’s very positive to see these results in the borough,” said Pauline Devine, director of employment services at St Helens Chamber.

“A lot of the services that the Chamber provides through its Starting Point centre and also as a leading provider of apprenticeships will have contributed to the improved picture we are seeing.”

Figures also suggest that more young people are finding employment with the number of JSA claimants in the 18 to 24 age group at 1,070, the lowest point since December 2007.

And the number of young people claiming JSA for longer than 12 months is down to 220, the lowest figure in over two years.

At the start of the year St Helens Chamber committed itself to providing job opportunities for young people with its ‘365 Jobs Challenge’.

This has already seen more than 200 job and apprenticeship opportunities filled so far in 2014.

However, there are still 7.7 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds on the benefit, well above the regional average of 4.4 per cent and the national figure of 3.9 per cent.

“It’s great that we have so many jobs on offer but we are finding we have more vacancies than young people at the moment.

“So there is plenty more scope to improve these figures further,” added Pauline.

St Helens Council leader Barrie Grunewald said he was delighted by the figures.

He added: “When I became leader one of the first things I did was to commit funding for private sector apprenticeships delivered by the council’s economic development team and St Helens Chamber.

“These latest figures are more than encouraging and I am committed to significant improvements in the level of educational attainment for young people and addressing youth unemployment.

“It is my intention that every young person should be given every opportunity to gain work.”