‘Stevenage is really developing’ – DWP stats show job market is booming as town gets set for arrival of Debenhams and Costco

An image of what the outside of the Debenhams store will look like when it opens in the autumn of 20

An image of what the outside of the Debenhams store will look like when it opens in the autumn of 2017. - Credit: Archant

The North Herts job market is booming – that’s according to the Department for Work and Pensions’ operations manager in Stevenage.

Shopping at Costco. Photo: Daniel Lobo.

Shopping at Costco. Photo: Daniel Lobo. - Credit: Archant

The number of jobseekers using the Stevenage job centre has dropped from 1,060 to 790 in the past year, and at Letchworth – which also covers Hitchin and Baldock – they are down from 915 to 655, more than 25 per cent.

This is in line with wider trends both regionally and nationally, with DWP figures recording a rise in employment in every region – and a record 78.1 per cent employment rate in the east of England.

And Marj Shanahan, operations manager at the Stevenage site, told the Comet that right now the market for jobs is ‘buoyant’.

“The labour market is really buoyant, and it’s booming in this area in particular,” she said.

“We have employers in our job centres every day. They see jobseekers on the spot and sometimes they’re offered a job before they walk out of the job centre.

“We have jobs fairs at Stevenage quarterly on average, and our last one was a week ago. We had 30 employers there and about 400 jobseekers, which is fantastic.

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“Over in Letchworth Home Bargains are opening now, and they want 16 people from the Letchworth job centre.

“And there’s a lot of hospitality and retail in Stevenage. We’ve got Popcorn City opening in Westgate on Monday, and next year we’ve got Costco and Debenhams both opening

“That’ll mean a lot, especially Debenhams, and everyone seems to be really excited about Costco as well. It’s like a domino effect.

“The retail park is opening up new opportunities all the time. I think Stevenage is really developing.”

Asked how the UK’s referendum vote to leave the European Union affected matters, Ms Shanahan said: “We haven’t had any impact yet from the exit.”

Across the east of England, employment has risen by 59,000 over the past year, with unemployment dropping by 45,000.

The number claiming jobseekers’ allowance across the region has fallen by 2,800 in the same period.

For more about finding work call 0345 6043719 for your local job centre.

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