Jobless queues in Wolverhampton are getting longer, new figures revealed today – bucking the national trend of unemployment falling for the first time in almost a year.
Across the West Midlands, unemployment fell by 3,000 to 239,000, while the national total dipped by 35,000 in the quarter to February, giving a jobless rate of 8.3 per cent.
But in Wolverhampton, the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance rose by 44 to 12,354, or 8.1 per cent of the borough's working population – the highest in the region and way above the national average claimant rate of 4.9 per cent.
Economic regeneration chief, Councillor Peter Bilson, today said that while the result was disappointing, he remained optimistic for the future.
"Forty-four is a very small statistic. We know we have a long way to go to improve the employment opportunities of people in the city, both young and old," he said.
"But we have has some good news in recent weeks so I am optimistic we will be able to turn it around in the coming months.
"Both as an employer and as a facilitator, the council will be working with the business community to stabilise growth and encourage new jobs," he added.
The number of Jobseekers claimants increased for the 17th month in a row in March, up by 3,600 to 1.61 million, the smallest monthly rise since last December. The figures differ because not everyone classed as unemployed is eligible to claim the allowance.
The smaller-than-forecast rise in the claimant count suggests the UK's labour market may be starting to stabilise as the economy recovers.
Other figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed the number of unemployed women rose by 8,000 in the latest quarter to 1.14 million, the highest figure for almost 25 years.
In Dudley the claimant count was down by 73 to 10,352, or 5.4 per cent of the borough's working population - above the national average claimant rate of 4.9 per cent.
In Kidderminster and Wyre Forest the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fell by 39 to 2,431 or four per cent. In neighbouring South Staffordshire the claimant count was down by 107 to 1,807, or 2.7 per cent.
In Walsall, the claimant count was down by 131 to 10,753, or 6.8 per cent of the working population.
In Sandwell the claimant count was down by 65 to 14,081, or 7.6 per cent of the borough's working population – way above the national average claimant rate of 4.9 per cent. In Birmingham the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fell by 450 to 51,685, or 7.7 per cent.
By Simon Penfold