UNEMPLOYMENT is continuing to fall in the North-East, latest figures reveal.

The region’s jobless total stood at 125,000 or 9.7 per cent – a fall of 2,000 - for the final quarter of 2012.

However, employment in the North-East also fell 3,000 to 1,172,000 or 67.7 per cent.

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North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) director of policy, Ross Smith, said the figures were surprising, with a sudden reversal of the trend that had seen strong growth in employment and reduction in unemployment throughout 2012.

However, he added: “The changes do not alter the fact that over the year, the North-East fared significantly better than the UK as a whole, but this sudden swing in fortunes reported in the final month means the overall gap with UK rates once again widened.”

The number of people in the North-East claiming jobseekers allowance stood at 93,400 or 7.7 per cent, compared to 4.7 per cent nationally.

Across the country, the number of people claiming jobseekers allowance fell to a near two-year low after a huge increase in employment.

Almost 30 million people were in work at the end of 2012, an increase of 154,000 on the quarter to September, and the highest total since records began in 1971.

But Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said the headlines of falling unemployment did not reflect what was happening in his constituency.

He said: “Yet again, these figures show that unemployment is up in my constituency from the previous month.

“Similarly unemployment is up in the neighbouring constituencies of Redcar and Stockton South – most striking here is the level of 18 to 24-year-old claimants for six months or more which is up almost 70 per cent since the General Election in 2010.

“Despite this, the North-East remains amongst the hardest hit by Government cuts.”