Following this report in the Daily Post I decided to have a look at the benefit claimant data for Wrecsam County over the last 18 months or so.
In May 2008 there were 1,730 JobSeeker Allowance claimants in Wrecsam and by October 2009 that figure had nearly doubled to 3,446 but the increase has slowed down since May 2009 when it was 3,260. Many reports on these headline figures will naturally blame these increases on recession and lost jobs but this is not the whole picture. Take for example the Incapacity and Employment Support Allowance claimant figures for Wrecsam; in May 2008 there were 7,270 claimants and in May 2009, there were 7,030 IB/ESA claimants, the figures for October/November haven't been published as yet but I would predict that they will continue downward. Any reduction in IB/ESA claimants normally suggest that that reduction means that those claimants have been decreed fit and available for work following their 'personal capability assessment' and if there is no work available they will go on Jobseekers Allowance thus accounting for some of the increase in those figures (approx 15%).
The total benefit claimant count for Wrecsam between May 2008 and May 2009 has increased by 11% from 13,240 to 14,660. Economic activity figures for Wrecsam for similar periods (April to March 08 and 09) show similar trends. In 2008/09 there was an increase of 1,200 in the economically active population whilst there was a decrease of 1,000 in the economically inactive population, this again indicates a movement from sickness benefits to availability for work and Job Seekers Allowance.
In concluding I would suggest a word of caution in accepting JobSeeker Allowance figures on face value whilst much of the increase is undoubtedly down to the recession and job losses some of it is also down to manipulation of benefit claimants and the infamous Purnell reforms of Incapacity Benefit in late 2007.