UNEMPLOYMENT in York has dropped dramatically over the past year, according to the last jobless figures to be published before the May elections.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance in the City of York Council area halved from 2,122 in March 2014, or 1.6 per cent of those eligible, to 1,048 last month - just 0.8 per cent.

The percentage is lower than at any time since 1992 and the annual fall is greater than in both North Yorkshire County Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council's areas.

In North Yorkshire, the number of claimants fell from 6,246, or 1.7 per cent, in March last year to 3,901, or 1.1 per cent last month. In East Yorkshire, the number fell from 4,851 or 2.4 per cent to 3,485, or 1.7 per cent.

Susie Cawood, head of York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said York's jobless reduction reflected greatly improved confidence in the business community, which encouraged firms to take on new staff.

She said new jobs had been created in a variety of areas, including the expanding universities, new retailers such as John Lewis opening on the Vangarde site near Monks Cross, construction projects on sites such as Hungate and the former Terry's chocolate factory site, and insurance company Hiscox opening new flagship offices in Hungate.

Figures showing the total number of full and part-time jobs in York are not yet available for 2014, but 2013's figure showed a reduction in full-time jobs on 2012, while part-time jobs increased between 2012 and 2013.

Leading candidates at City of York Council's elections have welcomed the latest figures in different ways.

Liberal Democrat group leader Keith Aspden said York's fall was part of a wider UK economic recovery, which Lib Dems in government had helped secure, particularly through York-educated Business Secretary Vince Cable's work in increasing apprenticeships and raising the national minimum wage.

Labour council leader Dafydd Williams said the figures were 'fantastic news' and showed York was on the right track and was prospering, and the Labour council's economic strategy was working. The focus now was on attracting better paid jobs.

Tory Chris Steward said it was 'great' to see unemployment once again falling in York but said it was not the council but the Conservative -led government that was behind the national success story.

Green Andy D'Agorne said that if more people were 'managing to find worthwhile rewarding work,' this was very welcome, but he raised concerns about falling pay levels.

UKIP's Judith Morris welcomed the decrease but said more still needed to be done.