UNEMPLOYMENT in Hereford and South Herefordshire fell by more than 30 percent in just 12 months.

And local recruitment expert Stuart Blake suggests that could halve again with the influx of up to 1,100 new jobs on the Old Market retail development.

From November 2012 to November 2013, the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) in the constituency fell by 499 – in North Herefordshire that figure was 227, or a 22 percent fall.

The upswing can, in part, be put down to an increase in confidence in the economy – especially in industries like manufacturing, said Mr Blake.

He added: “There is undoubtedly more opportunity now."

The figures were released as 250 new jobs were being advertised for staff within the Old Market’s new Waitrose and Debenhams stores.

But the response to the Waitrose vacancies proves just how competitive the job market remains.

The supermarket received 985 applications for the 150 available positions within a 23-day period.

Waitrose Director of Development, Nigel Keen, said: "We have had a phenomenal response and we are really encouraged by the calibre of applications we’ve received."