The never-ending search for work

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Media captionWatch Fiona join Mike and Hayley from Middlesbrough on their search

The latest unemployment figures show that, despite a drop in the number of people out of work, many people are still looking for a job. But what's surprising is that there are hundreds of thousands of job vacancies.

There is a mixture of sleet and snow in Middlesbrough and Mike Bailes can hardly see where he's going - but it's a walk he has to take.

Almost every day he goes to the Job Centre Plus looking for a position he thought would be easy to get.

Mike, who is 28, wants to work as a barman or a waiter.

They are jobs he has had before. He says he sends off two CVs every day and on average, applies for 12 advertised jobs a week. Mike finds it baffling that in the six months he has been doing this, he has never had an interview.

"I feel like hitting my head against a brick wall," he says.

"I haven't had a job interview, so I can't get feedback. When it comes to feedback on my applications, I hardly ever get a response. When I do, they say 'Due to the large number of applicants we can't reply to everybody personally.' I feel like I'm being completely ignored."

'No chance'

On the other side of town, 18 year-old Hayley Connor is at home looking through some jobs websites.

She has just finished college and wants to work in retail.

"I've applied to supermarkets, catalogue shops and clothes shops because I didn't think I needed any qualifications," she says.

"But then they ask for experience and of course I don't have any because I've just finished college. I'm not getting a chance."

The number of people out of work fell by 37,000 between September and November to 2.49 million, figures show. The total is the lowest since the March-to-May period in 2011.

But although there has been a drop in the number of those out of work, latest figures obtained by the BBC suggest there are 489,000 vacancies across the UK waiting to be filled by those in need of employment.

The Office for National Statistics has produced the numbers from its own Vacancy Survey.

In the wholesale and retail sector where Hayley is searching, the ONS suggests there are around 98,000 vacancies.

In accommodation and food services where Mike is looking, there are 52,000.

These jobs do not necessarily require a specialist qualification. So why aren't they being filled by people like Hayley and Mike?

Jo Hand is a recruitment consultant in Middlesbrough, an area which has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the UK.

She has been in the business for 25 years and has experienced three recessions.

"Jobseekers want full-time hours," she explains.

"A lot of the bar staff or shop worker jobs are part-time and for a lot of people, it's not worth coming off their benefits".

John Salt is the website director for

He believes that because there are so many people looking for work, businesses are more demanding.

"I think any employer wants to take on people who are trained and ready to go. However, one in four companies in the UK don't do any training on the job."

He says jobseekers' attitudes have changed too.

"It's not like a generation or two before them. These days, young people don't necessarily want an interim job. They're thinking about things in terms of a career - where's my career progression? What am I going to do to find that next job?'"

Mike and Hayley say they're not thinking about their next career step. For now, they just want paid work.

Hayley is being supported by her family and Mike is a father of two. They say unpaid work experience is not an option.

Mike Whitaker is a qualified social worker who also lives in Middlesbrough.

Image caption Mike Bailes says unpaid work experience is not an option for him

He left university with a social work degree two years ago and has applied for 30 jobs. He had four interviews in four months and says he still could not find the job he was looking for.

So, instead of being unemployed, he accepted a job with a charity instead.

"My current job pays less than social work. I suppose I have taken a step back to try and go forward," he says.

Latest figures suggest there are 62,000 vacancies in the health and social work sector.

"I find that encouraging and will definitely keep looking," says Mike.

The problem for jobseekers in Middlesbrough is that, while there appear to be thousands of jobs out there, there are roughly eight unemployed people for every job.

Employers can afford to be choosy and for people like Mike Bailes and Hayley Connor, that means their search for employment continues.

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