Job hunters in Louth and Horncastle have been handed a boost going into the New Year by the latest unemployment figures.
They show that 383 fewer people are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance compared to 12 months ago - a fall of 0.7 per cent.
In total, 1,031 people are claiming the allowance in the Louth and Horncastle Parliamentary constituency - 1.9 per cent of the workforce.
However, the figures have led to a clash between two of the candidates who are fighting for the seat in next May’s General Election.
Victoria Atkins (Conservative) claimed the figures showed the Government’s long-term economic plan is working.
She said 648 fewer people in Louth and Horncastle were claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance compared to 2010 - a fall of 39 per cent.
However, that brought a stinging response from Matthew Brown (Labour) who disputed the validity of the figures, describing them as “smoke and mirrors.”
Mrs Atkins said: “It is great news that 648 fewer people in Louth and Horncastle are relying on Jobseeker’s Allowance to get by.
“This is a clear sign the Conservatives’ long-term economic plan is working - helping people get off benefits and into work.
“This is happening because we’ve been backing businesses to create more jobs with lower taxes and better infrastructure - and fixing the welfare system to make sure work pays.
“Recently, I met job hunters in Louth who are improving their computer skills at college.
“I was impressed with the efforts they are making to gain employment and ensure a better future for themselves and their families.
“I am determined to help businesses in the constituency thrive so that more jobs are created for local people.
“We should encourage opportunity - not handouts.”
Mr Brown countered by claiming statistics do not make a recovery.
He said: “Statistics on jobseekers don’t mean a lot when 918,600 claimants have been sanctioned between April 2013 and March 2014, according to DWP figures.
“This means they don’t appear on official jobseeker statistics.
“The reality is that we are seeing a rise in food bank use nationally, people are sleeping rough in the Louth and Horncastle constituency and 700 families have been adversely affected by the bedroom tax.
“We have also seen shops empty in the constituency.
“Victoria is playing slight of hand in her facts. Her stats’ don’t take into account what type of employment is involved. Is it part time, above minimum wage or seasonal?
“It looks OK but the devil is in the detail.
“This is smoke and mirrors. Statistics do not make for a recovery.”
Ian Douglas, who lives in a Wolds village, said he and his partner had found work in the last three months - but only after a long search.
He said: “I lost my job in February. I must have written more than 200 letters. I have a job now - but it’s not really what I want.
“My partner is having to travel to the other side of Lincoln every day - for the minimum wage so once she pays for transport, there’s not much left.
“I know what the position is nationally but I don’t think it’s particularly rosy around here.”
The rate for Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants in neighbouring areas is: Boston and Skegness (2.6%), Gainsborough (2.5%), Lincoln (1.9%). Grantham and Stamford (1.5%).
Nationally, the figure for England is 1.9% - the same as Louth and Horncastle - although there are significant regional differences.