Festive joy for the thousands more in work

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The festive season is set to be merrier for many across the county as thousands more people are in work this year.

The latest unemployment figures for Bedford Borough saw the number of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants fall for the ninth consecutive month, while about 2,600 people found new jobs over the summer.

In Central Bedfordshire, almost 79 per cent of residents are in employment.

According to Bedford Mayor Dave Hodgson the upswing in employment is due to increased confidence among small and medium employers, the arrival of new investors and major improvements in the county’s roads and rail network.

He said: “The continuing fall in the number of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants really is fantastic news. This downward trend mirrors the dramatic growth in new jobs created locally, and it is so important for households across the borough’s communities.

“There is always more to do, and through our Jobs Hub, encouraging new investment, developing key infrastructure such as the bypass under construction, supporting apprenticeship growth and more, we will continue to do all we can to ensure this trend continues.”

The Bedford Jobs Hub is a council-led initiative where people can search job vacancies, apprenticeships and get training advice.

During the past year, it has successfully matched people to the jobs created by the new Morrisons superstore.

Much of the fall in unemployment is among 18-to-24 year olds, with a 61 per cent drop in JSA claimants – 435 claimants in November compared with 1,105 in February, 2013 – which is the main age bracket supported by the hub.

The prospect of economic growth across the borough has also been boosted by a series of road improvement projects such as the start on completing the final section of the western bypass, the dualling of the A421 from Bedford to Junction 13 of the M1, and the announcement it will be dualled through to Cambridge with the creation of a fly-over at the Black Cat Roundabout.

Local business confidence has also been buoyed by the confirmation the East-West rail link from Bedford to Oxford is going ahead.

Figures show that 131,300 people are in employment in Central Beds, a rise of 6,500 in the last year.