YOUTH unemployment in Dorset and the New Forest has dropped by up to half since last year.

Thousands of 18-24-year-olds have come off unemployment-related benefits since the dramatic rise seen earlier in the pandemic.

Figures for the end of August showed the number of young people claiming universal credit because of unemployment fell year-on-year by 1,079, or 40 per cent, to 1,596 in the BCP Council area.

In the rest of Dorset, the figure was down by 45 per cent, or 785, to 959.

And in the New Forest, the figure was down by 50 per cent, 417, to 419.

The total in all age groups claiming universal credit because of unemployment fell 29 per cent in the BCP Council area, down by 4,494 to 11,102.

In the Dorset Council area, the count was down 33 per cent, or 3,159, to 6,527. In the New Forest, it fell 36 per cent, or 1,580, to 2,803.

Earlier this year, unemployment had more than doubled year-on-year, with joblessness among young people almost trebling in the Dorset Council area.

Robert Sherman, senior employment and partnership manager with the Department for Work and Pensions, said the figures showed “everything opening up after lockdown”.

He said the Kickstart scheme – which offers placements to young people at risk of long-term unemployment – was having a “big impact”.

“In most of our sites, we’re running recruitment events where employers are coming on site and interviewing young people,” he added.

“We’ve got more vacancies than ever before. There are lots of vacancies out there in all sorts of sectors.”

He said the sectors with the most vacancies included transport, logistics, care and hospitality, with new jobs also becoming available in agriculture.

“We’re just starting some work on what we can do to support that new challenge and get people to consider those sectors,” he said.

He said care had been a “misrepresented” sector. “It’s something that can be rewarding and there’s a great diversity of roles as well,” he added.

The figures were gathered while the furlough scheme was still in operation. It has been estimated that around a million people were still on the job support scheme when it ended.

Mr Sherman said it was too early to tell what impact the end of furlough would have on the figures but added: “In the last couple of weeks, we haven’t noticed a significant increase in claimants.”