Arun District Council has defended its record on tackling unemployment after statistics appeared to show a decline in those in work.
A report by Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership revealed Arun’s employment rate – the percentage of economically active, working age residents in work – has declined over four successive quarters.
But the council argued the statistic did not show the whole picture, with a fall in benefits claimants and rise in new businesses cause for optimism.
Leader Gill Brown said: “The council remains absolutely committed to boosting the local economy by helping local businesses thrive and reducing the levels of unemployment.
“The council is keen to attract the best businesses to Arun as well as providing opportunities for those looking for work to find a job or improve their skills so they can make a valuable contribution to the local economy.”
Between April 2015 and March 2016, 66,800 people were recorded as in work, a rate of 71.2 per cent. This compared to a rate of 82 per cent between April 2014 and March 2015.
Arun’s overall employment percentage has fallen in all but one of the last nine quarters – however the actual number has fluctuated due to changes in the overall number of eligible residents.
The latest figure is higher than the south east average, which has improved from 76.2 per cent to 77.2 per cent in the same period.
Arun noted the figures were compiled nationally, with a sample survey interviewing a minimal number of residents.
A spokesman said: “Latest figures suggest there were 55,000 jobs in the Arun District in 2014, up from 50,000 in 2013.
“While the data does fluctuate from year to year, the 2014 figure is the highest ever.
“Another meaningful measure of Arun’s economy is the number of businesses in the district. Figures recorded 5,024 businesses in Arun in 2015, up from 4,640 in 2014.”
Mrs Brown added the council offered a range of assistance to businesses.