Jobless rise as wages lag behind county

UNEMPLOYMENT is on the increase in Eastbourne at the same time as the town lags behind other parts of East Sussex in terms of average wages.

The number of people currently on Jobseekers’ Allowance locally sits at 2,451 according to February’s statistics, when the latest set of figures were released.

That represents a six-month high and means an extra 274 people have signed onto the unemployment register since September last year, when official statistics showed their was 2,177 people out of work and claiming benefits.

County-wide, Sussex currently has an unemployment rate of 2.8 per cent.

Eastbourne’s total sits at 4.2 per cent, with only Hastings – the most deprived town on the south coast – polling worse at 6.5 per cent.

Mark Froud, chief executive of business group Sussex Enterprise said the figures, released by the Office of National Statistics, were “disappointing but unsurprising”.

He added that one of the reasons behind the spike in jobless totals was the impact of young people opting out of going to university because of the added financial burden and instead joining the already crowded job market.

Nationally, he said the figures showed 45,000 more jobs created in the private sector – something he said demonstrated how businesses were willing to drive the economy forward despite the current uncertain climate.

Locally that could mean the £70million due to be spent on revamping the Arndale Centre, the planned 65-bed town centre hotel and the continuing apprenticeship drive across Eastbourne which has already recruited more than 150 young people into work with local firms.

However, in a different study also released recently, full-time workers in Eastbourne were found to be getting paid less than counterparts in other towns.

The average is worked out at median levels, meaning 50 per cent of workers earn more and 50 per cent earn less. In Eastbourne, that average worker is paid £450 a week, or £23,500 a year.

However, the average for East Sussex sits at £488, or £25,500 a year – meaning local workers are being paid, on average, £2,000 a year less than people elsewhere in the county.

In fact, with neighbouring Wealden boasting a high of £585 a week and £30,500 a year and nearby Lewes showing £519 a week and £27,100, Eastbourne is second lowest only to Hastings, where the average wage is £22,000 a year.

The picture gets worse in comparison with the rest of the country. The average full-time annual wage in the south east is £28,900, while across the UK as a whole the total is £26,100.

That leaves the average for Eastbourne as £2,600 a year lower than the national figure, despite Sussex being one of the more affluent parts of the country.

Earlier this year the Herald used the Freedom of Information Act to find that the average wage for a worker at Eastbourne Borough Council was £24,623.716 – higher than the overall rate for the town.