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West Midlands bucks national trend as region's unemployment figure falls

By Simon Penfold | Business | Published:

The West Midlands was bucking the trend today as national unemployment increased by the biggest amount in almost five years.

Unemployment fell in the West Midlands between October and December, new figures reveal

At the same time while earnings have continued to grow more slowly than prices, new figures reveal.

There were 1.47 million people out of work in the UK in the quarter to December 2017, an increase of 46,000, giving a jobless rate of 4.4 per cent.

But in the West Midlands unemployment was actually down by 2,000 to 153,000. Much of the national rise was due to big hikes in the jobless figures in Wales and the East of England.

Although the UK's quarterly rise was the biggest since early 2013, national unemployment is 123,000 lower than a year ago, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Despite the increase – the first jobless jump since the summer of 2016 – the number of people in work increased by 88,000 to 32.1 million.

Other figures revealed that average earnings increased by 2.5 per cent in the year to December, unchanged from the previous month. But they are still lagging behind the rate of inflation, which was three per cent in January, tightening the squeeze on family incomes.

The claimant count, which includes people on Jobseeker's Allowance and the unemployment element of Universal Credit, fell by 7,200 last month to 823,000.

But in the West Midlands the claimant count has surged, up by more than 3,000 to 87,965, although this was still only 2.4 per cent of the region's working population. The jump is thought to be due to the increasing rollout of Universal Credit, taking over from other benefits.

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As a result claimant counts were up across the Black Country and Staffordshire.

In Wolverhampton it rose 155 to 6,755 last month, while in Walsall it rose by 90 to 4,895. In Dudley the number claiming jobless benefits jumped by 165 to 6,490 and in Sandwell it was up by 210 to 7,105.

In Staffordshire the claimant count figure was up 485 to 5,945 but still only 1.1 per cent of the county's working population. In South Staffordshire it was up by 30 to 845, in Stafford it rose 25 to 760 and in Cannock Chase it jumped by 90 to 825.

Nationwide, the number of people classed as economically inactive, including students, those on long-term sick leave, taken early retirement or who have given up looking for work, fell by 109,000 to 8.7 million, giving a rate of 21%.

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Job vacancies were up by 24,000 to a record 823,000.

ONS statistician Matt Hughes said: "While this is the sharpest increase in the unemployment level ONS has seen in almost five years, the number of people in work has continued to rise and there are fewer economically inactive people.

"Earnings continue to grow more slowly than prices.

"Rising employment this past year was largely driven by UK nationals. In particular, fewer citizens from eastern European countries were in work than in the year before.

"It's important to remember these figures simply look at the number of people in work, and aren't a measure of migration."

The number of self-employed workers fell by 31,000 to 4.8 million.

The number of non-UK nationals from outside the EU working in this country fell by 68,000 to 1.17 million in the quarter to last December compared with the previous year.

The number of non-UK nationals from EU countries working in this country increased by 101,000 to 2.35 million, the smallest rise since 2013.

The number of workers on zero-hours contracts in their main job fell by 4,000 to 901,000 in the quarter to last December compared with the previous year.

Simon Penfold

By Simon Penfold
Business Editor - @SPenfold_star

Business Editor based at the Express & Star's head office in Wolverhampton, looking for stories big & small.

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