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Unemployment continues to fall. The latest figures, published last week, showed that the
number of people looking for work and claiming unemployment benefits fell by 12,500
in the last month to stand at 1.54 million.

Nevertheless, the headline figures must seem remote to the
anxieties of anyone who does lose their job. Becoming unemployed can be a
shocking and terrifying experience – especially for people who have an unbroken
record of employment throughout a long career. In this position, it is easy for
someone to imagine that they will never get back into work or, at least, face a
protracted struggle before they do.

Unemployment, even for a period of weeks, can put household
finances – and family relationships – under severe strain, especially given the
long-term accumulation of personal debt in our society.

Britain’s long-term prosperity depends upon a rebalancing of
its economy towards financially-sustainable, wealth-creating industries. Since
the election over a million new jobs have been created – outnumbering by more
than two to one jobs lost. But because jobs will be lost in some sectors and
gained in others, it is vital that we have a labour market that enables people
to move into new jobs with the minimum of delay.

So, how is the labour market performing in this regard?

The latest figures show that of all the people who made a
new claim for Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) this time last year, almost 90 per
cent had been able to come off the allowance within 12 months.  Furthermore, this figure – the
‘off-flow rate’ – showed that around 75 per cent had come off JSA within six
months and nearly 60 per cent within three months of first making a claim.

For young people – aged 18 to 24 – the prospect of coming
off benefits within a few months is high. Around 95 per cent of young people
who came onto JSA 12 months ago have since ended their claim, while over 80 per
cent were off JSA within six months and around two-thirds within three months
of signing on.

Of course, not everyone who stops claiming Jobseekers’
Allowance has gone into full-time work: some people will go into education, for
example, others will retire from the labour force and some will claim
disability benefits. But most people leaving JSA do go into paid work, most commonly full-time, and most of them
will still be in work over six months later.

Overall, the chances of leaving JSA have improved since the
General Election and are now at levels comparable with the height of the boom in
2007. Through key reforms like the Work Programme and the expansion of
apprenticeships we are determined to build upon this encouraging trend and add
further to the job creating potential of the British economy.