LESS than 500 people are claiming Jobseeker's Allowance in Witham, new figures show. 

Witham MP and Employment Minister Priti Patel welcomed the figures released today which show just 499 people are claiming the benefit.

The figure is down 30 per cent on last year.

The number of claimants aged 18-24 is also 40 per cent down on last year at 105.

Ms Patel said: "It is fantastic to see more local residents find employment and have the security of a wage packet in the run up to Christmas.

"Unemployment has fallen across my constituency since it peaked under the last Labour Government because of the action the Conservatives have taken to support job creation and the commitment of businesses in my constituency and throughout Essex to invest in jobs and growth."

Ms Patel, who hosted an apprenticeship fair at New Rickstones Academy in November, also welcomed national figures showing that the number of people in work has increased by more than half a million over the year to a record 31.3 million.

Average wages have also risen by 2.4 per cent.

She said: "We are ending the year on a high, with a record rate of employment, and wages continuing to grow.

"Today’s figures show half-a-million more people in work compared to this time last year, which means hundreds of thousands of families are going into the festive season with the security and hope for the future that work brings."