Employment rises across West Midlands
Unemployment has fallen in the West Midlands, new figures reveal, while the number of people in work across the region has jumped.
Nationwide, Britain's "strong" labour market has seen employment rise to record levels despite households feeling the pinch as wage growth lags behind inflation.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the number of people in work reached another all-time high, climbing by 181,000 to 32.13 million between May and July. Unemployment tumbled by 75,000 to a 12-year low of 1.46 million.
In the West Midlands unemployment fell by 2,000 to 164,000, although at 5.7 per cent the region's unemployment rate is way above the national average of 4.3 per cent.
At the same time the number of people in work in the region surged by 36,000 over the three months to 2.7 million.
But household finances are getting tighter. Annual growth in earnings remained static at 2.1 per cent, both including and excluding bonuses over the period.
Once inflation is taken into account, total and regular pay both slipped by 0.4 per cent.
It comes as official inflation data published on Tuesday showed the pay squeeze on cash-strapped households had intensified, with the cost of living rebounding to 2.9 per cent in August, from 2.6 per cent in both June and July.
Matt Hughes, senior ONS statistician, said: "Another record high employment rate and record low inactivity rate suggest the labour market continues to be strong.
"In particular, the number of people aged 16 to 64 not in the labour force because they are looking after family or home is the lowest since records began, at less than 2.1 million.
"Despite earnings rising by 2.1 per cent in cash terms over the last year, the real value of people's earnings is down 0.4 per cent."
Meanwhile, the so-called claimant count dropped by 2,800 to 806,300 nationwide last month. But that hides a mixed picture, with the count in the West Midlands rising by 170 to 85,675.
And there was a similar mixed picture across the Black Country and Staffordshire, although figures remained fairly static.
In Sandwell the number of people claiming unemployment related benefits such as Jobseeker's Allowance fell by 40 in August compared to July, down to 7,015 or 3.4 per cent of the working population. The national average rate is just 1.9 per cent.
But in Dudley the claimant count rose by 35 to 5,770, or three per cent. In Wolverhampton it also rose by 35, to 6,740 or 4.2 per cent.
In Walsall the count inched down by just five to 4,885 or 2.9 per cent.
In Kidderminster and Wyre Forest the claimant count was down by 10 to 750, or 1.3 per cent.
Across Staffordshire the number of people claiming benefits such as the new Universal Credit was up by 50, to 5,580, but that only accounts for one per cent of the working population – half the national average.
In South Staffs the monthly count rose by 10 to 795, or 1.2 per cent, and in Lichfield it was also up by 10, to 455 or 0.7 per cent.
In Cannock Chase the claimant count was down by five to 780 or 1.2 per cent, and in Stafford it was up 15 on the previous month to 745 or 0.9 per cent.