THE number of young people out of work in East Lothian has more than halved over the last eight years.

The unemployment rate among county 16-24-year-olds has fallen from 24.8 per cent in 2010 to 10.8 per cent last year.

And a move to increase the number of businesses in the county has also been a runaway success after a target figure was almost doubled.

A report on the East Lothian Community Planning Economic Development Strategy, which was developed in 2012, has revealed that it has had a significant impact on the county’s goals.

The report from East Lothian Partnership – which brings together a range of public services and organisations in the local authority area – revealed that the council’s employability service East Lothian Works  had made a huge impact on youth unemployment.

It also revealed that a goal of increasing the number of businesses in East Lothian by 350 by the year 2022 had already been far surpassed, with 620 new businesses opening already over the last seven years.

The introduction of modern apprenticeships and career pathways which young people can access while still in school was credited for helping the county slash the number of youths unemployed.

And a new Youth Unemployment  Plan is now in place to deliver more programmes and projects to help young people into employment.

The report, which was put before a meeting of East Lothian Council’s cabinet at Haddington Town House, said: “There has been a significant reduction in youth unemployment since the strategy was released.”

Councillor Shamin Akhtar, cabinet spokeswoman for education, welcomed the improvement in employment figures.

She said: “We have to remember in 2012/13 we did not have modern foundation apprenticeships available to our young people across the county that we do today.

“We are widening the opportunities for our young people and positive destinations for school leavers are at their highest level ever here.

“We are working really hard to ensure the paths offered to our young people are the right ones and we can provide them with a great start.”

Councillor Norman Hampshire said that the future growth of East Lothian, which expects its population to increase by 18 per cent in the next decade, with a 12 per cent increase in under-16s, would bring with it more businesses keen to locate in the county.

He said: “We have seen this in other parts of the country.

“Where towns grow and expand and people move into them, businesses follow their employees, and what we have in East Lothian is an attractive place for people to live and businesses to come.”