ST HELENS has seen an increase in claimants of unemployment benefits over the past 12 months - in a contrast with the trend across the country.

National reports stated that employment rates had grown - with an unemployment rate of 4.2 per cent, with a DWP spokesman calling it "one of the lowest since the 1970s".

Meanwhile, critics have expressed concerns over the number of part-time roles this includes and worries over wages not keeping pace.

Despite the upturn in job numbers, St Helens has seen a five per cent increase in the amount of people claiming an unemployment benefit.

The borough had 3,310 residents on record claiming unemployment benefits in May 2018, a five per cent hike on the same month in 2017.

By contrast though, the number of 18 to 24-year-old jobseekers has dropped over the past 12 months by six per cent to 725.

Clive Morris, a spokesman for Merseyside Job Centre Plus, said he was confident the downturn was not indicative of a long-term trend.

He said: "With St Helens there is a slight difference there (compared with national figures).

"I can't say there is one particular factor behind this.

"What I'm encouraged by speaking to staff in St Helens is they were telling me about a jobs fair at the town hall in May."

Clive said there is a "lot of variety" of vacancies in the job market in the borough- including "from the NHS to the construction sector, retail and the care sector".