THE number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance in Devon rose by more than 540 at the start of the year.

Figures rose from 9,273 to 9,818 between December and January – a clear indication of Devon’s largely seasonal labour market – in line with the national trend, which also saw an increase over the same period.

Despite this, Devon’s claimant count of 2.2% among the working age population remains considerably lower than the national figure of 3.9%.

Year on year, the number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance in the county has fallen by 1,161 (10.6%), faster than the national fall, which was 4.1%.

For Devon’s young people, the trend follows a similar vein with the number of claimants aged 24 and under rising from 2,675 in December to 2,815 in Jan-uary, which again follows the national trend.

However, Devon’s youth unemployment is around 20% lower and is falling fas-ter than the UK average.

County councillors recommended that an extra £1.4million be spent on services for people at their annual budget meeting yesterday (Thursday), including £250,000 to cover the extra cost of helping people affected by welfare reforms and another £50,000 for Citizens Advice Bureaux.

DCC leader John Hart said: “Despite the expected increase in people claiming Job Seekers Allowance after Christmas the number of claimants in Devon continues a downward trend and is considerably lower than this time last year.

“What’s particularly positive is the significant fall in youth unemployment since a year ago, which we hope continues into 2013.”