Claimant levels across Merseyside fell 4.45% last month, from 35,188 people claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) in July last year, to 33,619 last month.

All six Merseyside regions reported a drop in claimant levels, with Liverpool enjoying the biggest fall of 523, from 14,206 in July 2013.

Sefton enjoyed the second biggest drop of 369, from 5,220 claimants this time last year, followed by Wirral which was down by 298 from 5,510. Halton reported a 137 reduction, from 2,663, while Knowsley’s level fell by 125 from 3,760, and the St Helens level of 3,712 showed a drop of 117.

The fall in the number of claimants mirrored the national picture, revealed by the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today.

It said unemployment has continued to fall, while the number of people claiming JSA is on course to dip below a million for the first time in six years.

The UK jobless total was 2.08 million in the quarter to June, down by 132,000 on January to March and the lowest since the end of 2009, giving an unemployment rate of 6.4%.

The claimant count fell for the 21st month in a row in June, by 33,600 to 1.01 million, according to today’s data.

If the trend continues, the number of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants will fall below a million next month for the first time since September 2008.

The number of self-employed people has reached a record 4.5 million.

Average earnings fell by 0.2% in the year to June, due to an unusually high growth rate a year ago.

Joe Grice, chief economist at the ONS, said: “The headline measure of pay, including bonuses, was 0.2% lower compared with a year earlier. This was partly due to unusually high bonuses in April last year, although underlying pay growth excluding bonuses is also low.”

Excluding bonuses, pay was 0.6% higher than a year ago.

More people are in work – up by 167,000 over the quarter and by 820,000 compared with a year ago,to 30.6 million.

Unemployment has now fallen by 437,000 over the past year, although there was a 15,000 increase in the number of people classed as economically inactive to 8.8 million.

The figure includes students, people looking after a sick relative, taking early retirement or who have given up looking for work.

The number of unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds fell by 102,000 over the quarter to 767,000, more than 200,000 lower than a year ago, the biggest fall since records began in 1992.

Long-term unemployment also fell, with the number out of work for over a year down by 75,000 to 738,000.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “In the past, many people in our society were written off and trapped in unemployment and welfare dependency. But through our welfare reforms, we are helping people to break that cycle and get back into work.

“The Government’s long-term economic plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society is working – with employment going up, record drops in youth unemployment and hundreds of thousands of people replacing their signing-on book with a wage packet.

“This is transformative, not only for these individuals and their families, but for society as a whole. That is why we have set full employment as one of our key targets – bringing security and hope to families who have lost their jobs and others who never had jobs, we put people at the heart of the plan.

“The best way to help even more people into work is to go on delivering a plan that’s creating growth and jobs.”

The Government said youth unemployment has seen the largest annual fall since records began 30 years ago, alongside the steepest annual fall in unemployment in a quarter of a century.

Schemes such as the Work Programme have contributed to the biggest fall in long-term unemployment since 1998, said ministers.

Information sourced from Liverpool Echo