UNEMPLOYMENT in Bolton is at a five-year low, according to new government figures.

There are now 6,810 people, equivalent to 3.9 per cent of Bolton residents, claiming job seekers allowance (JSA) in Bolton — the lowest since January 2009.

Almost a quarter of claimants are aged 18 to 24, compared with 31 per cent in March 2012.

The data, released by the Office of National Statistics, has been hailed by the Department for Work and Pensions which says it is a sign that austerity measures are working.

But Bolton West MP Julie Hilling said while the news was welcome, the figures should be treated with caution as they include people who have been sanctioned from JSA, or are no longer in receipt of disability allowance.

She said: “It’s always good news when unemployment goes down, however, I am concerned that unpaid jobs are included in the new jobs, as are zero hour contracts and part-time work.

“So as long as people have got work that enables them to pay their bills, then it’s a good thing.

“But we already know that a third of people using food banks are in work. I am pushing the government to keep records of what these jobs actually are.”

Unemployment peaked in February 2013, when more than 8,800 people were forced to sign on.

Christian Spence, head of business intelligence at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said it was encouraging to see wages also begining to rise as the economy recovers.

He added: “The outlook is positive but there are areas where work must continue, particularly in supporting young people and those furthest from the labour market into work so that as large a portion of the labour force can benefit from the strong economic recovery.”

Minister for employment Esther McVey said: “As the recovery takes hold, more people are able to get a job or set up their own business and become the employers of tomorrow.

“Each and every person who has made a new start or hired someone new is helping to make Britain a more prosperous and confident place to be.”