THE number of young people in work or apprenticeships across Inverclyde is on the up - and the area's unemployment rate is now lower than the UK one.

Official claimant count numbers from the Office of National Statistics show a significant fall in the number of young people in the area claiming unemployment-related benefits in September.

The figures also reveal that across all age groups there has been a fall of 500 people claiming benefits in Inverclyde since before the pandemic struck in March 2020.

Inverclyde's MP Ronnie Cowan says that while the figures are moving in the right direction, he wants to see even more young people in apprenticeships or jobs and believes that more can be done to combat unemployment among all age groups.

The SNP man, who has previously highlighted youth unemployment as an area of concern, says jobs fairs and business walkabouts in the constituency have helped him understand more about what employers need, and what potential workers want.

The ONS figures for September show that 335 young people aged 18-24 were claiming benefits.

That is down by 45 on the previous month and it means the gap has narrowed between the UK youth rate (4.9 per cent) and the Inverclyde youth rate (5.8 per cent).

Among all age groups 1,715 people were claiming benefits in Inverclyde, which is down 125 on the previous month.

It means the claimant rate in Inverclyde of 3.6 per cent is below the overall UK rate of 3.7 per cent.

Mr Cowan said: "These figures are welcome, but more needs to be done.

"Much of my time in trying to combat unemployment has been taken up by finding out from employers what they need and finding out from potential workers what they are looking for.

"Visiting big employers like RBS and speaking to small local businesses in Gourock and Greenock has been an essential part of this process because we need these employers to thrive.

"These are the businesses which drive our local economy by investing and providing jobs.

"And I was really encouraged to see the amount of young people who turned up at the latest jobs fair.

"The new figures are welcome, particularly the fall in young claimants, and the big fall in all claimants since the pandemic.

"Inverclyde, which has been talked-down by too many people, has a lower unemployment rate than the UK rate."

Mr Cowan insists that while the figures are going in the right direction, there can be no room for complacency.

He told the Tele: "We have much work to do in youth unemployment, even allowing for this welcome fall in claimant numbers.

"You can analyse and slice statistics any way you want, but what matters is that more people are bringing an income into their households through work and that is what we need to tackle this cost-of-living crisis and for the future.

"I want to see more opportunities for our young people to learn skills and trades, and I want to see conditions improve for our business community both big and small."