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Unemployment rises in West Midland despite record number in work

By John Corser | Business | Published:

Unemployment rose in the West Midlands in the three-month period of December to February.

Latest figures show there are 153,000 unemployed in the West Midlands

It was up 7,000 on the previous three months to November at 153,000.

It came as nationally record numbers of people are in work after a big increase in full-time jobs and self-employment over the past year.

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show employment jumped by 179,000 in the three months to 32.7 million, the highest total since records began in 1971. In the West Midlands 2.79m are in work.

The national figure has increased by 457,000 over the past year, all among full-time employees and the self-employed, while the number of people in part-time jobs fell by 15,000, said the ONS.

Nationally unemployment fell by 27,000 to 1.34m, continuing a general trend which started in early 2012.

The UK's unemployment rate of 3.9 per cent is now lower than at any time since the end of 1975, but for the West Midlands it was up 0.2 per cent to 5.2 per cent.

The number claiming unemployment benefits, including Jobseeker's Allowance and Universal Credit, in the region rose 4,040 in March to 119,960 - 3.3 per cent of the working population.

In the Black Country the biggest rise of 375 on February was in Sandwell where there were 7,880 claimants (5.9 per cent). Walsall was up 255 to 6,480 (3.8 per cent), Wolverhampton had an increase of 195 to 9,060 (5.6 per cent) and Dudley's claimant total rose by 85 to 7,880 (4.1 per cent).

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Staffordshire had an increase of 550 to 8,705 (1.6 per cent) with Stafford up by 85 to 1,055 (1.3 per cent), Cannock Chase increasing by 65 to 1,085 (1.7 per cent), Lichfield rising 35 to 995 (1.6 per cent) and South Staffordshire having 20 more claimants at1,05=45 (1.5 per cent).

Wyre Forest, which includes Kidderminster, had an increase of 50 to 1,165 (two per cent).

Average earnings increased by 3.5 per cent in the year to February, no change on the previous month, but still outpacing inflation.

When adjusted for inflation, pay, including bonuses, increased by 1.6 per cent on the year, the highest figure since the summer of 2016.

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The number of economically inactive people fell by 114,000 in the latest quarter to 8.53 million, a rate of just under 21 per cent, the joint lowest on record. In the West Midlands 1.72m are economically inactive.

The number of vacancies is unchanged at 852,000.

Employment Minister Alok Sharma said: "The UK jobs market continues to go from strength to strength, proving the underlying resilience of the British economy.

"But we must not take this for granted. We need to work urgently to get behind a Brexit deal that protects this jobs record and gives employers the certainty to continue to invest in their workforce and boost wages.

"With more people in work than ever before, it is welcome news that wages are continuing to rise at their fastest rate in a decade.

"And by increasing the living wage and personal tax allowance for 2019, this Government is putting more money in people's pocket, benefitting millions of families across the country."

ONS deputy head of labour market statistics Matt Hughes said: "The jobs market remains robust, with the number of people in work continuing to grow.

"The increase over the past year is all coming from full-timers, both employees and the self-employed.

"Earnings have now been growing ahead of inflation for over a year, but in real terms, wage levels have not yet returned to their pre-downturn peak."

Total pay, including bonuses, now averages £494 a week, compared with £525 in February 2008, the year of the economic crash.

Matthew Percival, Confederation of British Industry head of employment, said: “The UK labour market continues to outperform the rest of the economy. It’s also positive that real pay continues to rise faster than it has on average over the last two years.

“Although securing a Brexit extension means we have averted an economic crisis, politicians must now come together and avoid a no deal scenario or risk impacting the UK’s stellar labour market.”

John Corser

By John Corser
Business Reporter - @JohnCorser_Star

Express & Star Business Editor at head office, Wolverhampton. Welcomes all news of companies and business organisations.

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