ENERGY giant British Gas was today announcing it has 100 jobs up for grabs in Southampton.

The call centre jobs pay between £13,932 and £14,448 per year plus bonuses and benefits for handling billing inquiries. Workers also earn a further £3,000 on average in bonuses.

However, experts warn the company might have problems filling the positions. The service sector jobs market is so big in Southampton that workers are in hot demand.

"It is great news for the city," said Catherine Wright of Southampton Chamber of Commerce.

"But they may find that they can't actually find 100 people to take the jobs. There are big skill shortages in Southampton because we have a strongly service-based economy."

Nationally, unemployment stands at a 20-year low. In Southampton 2.3 per cent of the workforce is jobless compared with 1.1 per cent in Hampshire.

The former nationalised industry is a major employer in Southampton, with 1,500 local people on its payroll. Annually, the Southampton office now answers six million telephone inquiries and 750,000 letters from customers across the UK.

The jobs bonanza at the St Mary's Road call centre includes both full-time and permanent part-time positions aimed at parents, carers or students in need of extra income.

There are also morning or evening shifts, flexible hours and four- or five-day work patterns on offer.

Andy Eley, General Manager for British Gas, said: "We are looking for people who have the confidence to deal with a number of different telephone inquiries while being committed to maintaining the high level of customer service which we require as a company. "

Recruitment sessions are being held in Woolston, Hythe and Eastleigh between April 26 and 29. Candidates should contact the British Gas recruitment line on 023 8082 4678 for further information.