UNEMPLOYMENT across the country has fallen to its lowest level since December 1974 - but more people in Swindon are claiming Universal Credit.

Office for National Statistics figures reveal that there were 245 more people claiming benefits in the town in 2019 than during the year before.

This is a very small rise of just 0.2 per cent. Most of the increase came from north Swindon, where 125 more men and 55 more women put a claim in.

Swindon jobcentre manager Julie Marshall said: “This slight rise normally happens because of a change in circumstances, people transferring from ESA, they might not be looking for work.

“Overall, it’s really positive and we are really pleased with the new figures because it means that because more people are working, it will give us more time with people who need extra support to move into work.

“Employers are starting to move forward with new vacancies. It’s been a slow start because Christmas is over and a new year has begun but we are seeing a rise in job vacancies now.”

Nationally, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits dropped by 7,000 to just below 1.31 million in the three months to November, according to new data.

It means that 3.8 per cent of people who are looking for work do not have a job, largely unchanged on the previous quarter, and in line with expectations. However, the figure is 0.2 percentage points lower than a year earlier.

The UK employment rate grew to its highest point on record, at 76.3 per cent. The growth in average weekly earnings stalled, remaining unchanged at 3.2 per cent in November.

Average regular pay was £472 per week, which is £1, or 0.2 per cent less than in March 2008.

Minister for employment Mims Davies said: “With unemployment at its lowest since the 1970s, our jobcentres go beyond getting people into work – they are about community and progression. Reaching out to more people, and supporting those in work to get ahead.”

She added: “This, coupled with business confidence turning a corner, is paving the way for an even stronger jobs market in 2020.”