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Number claiming unemployment benefits rises in the West Midlands

By John Corser | Business | Published:

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits across the West Midlands rose last month.

There was a rise in numbers claiming unemployment benefits last month

The total claiming unemployment benefits was up 5,075 for the region from July to 271,905.

Unemployment in the region for the three months to July was however down 1,000 to 129,000 for the three months to the end of July – 4.4 per cent of the working population.

For the UK unemployment increased by 104,000 to 1.4 million for the three months and the national rate of unemployment increased to 4.1 per cent.

Nationally around 695,000 UK workers have been removed from the payrolls of British companies since March when the coronavirus lockdown began, according to official figures.

Covid-19 coverage:

The Office for National Statistics said the rate of unemployment increased as another 36,000 jobs fell off payrolls across the country.

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The national claimant count in August was 2.72m – up 2.8 per cent on the month and 102.8 per cent (1.5m) since March. It is 6.5 per cent of the working population.

For the West Midlands the rate is 7.4 per cent and for Wolverhampton 10.6 per cent with 17,280 claiming unemployment benefits including Universal Credit – an increase of 255 on July.

Sandwell saw a rise of 360 to 19,355 (9.5 per cent) with Dudley up 335 to 14,865 (7.7 per cent. Walsall was 170 higher at 15,320 (8.8 per cent).

Across Staffordshire claimants were up 665 at 27,130 (5.1 per cent) with Stafford up 180 at 3,770 (4.5 per cent). Cannock Chase was 155 higher at 3,815 (six per cent) and Lichfield rose 70 to 3,125 (5.1 per cent). South Staffordshire bucked the trend with a slight fall of five to 3,135 (4.7 per cent).

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In Wyre Forest, including Kidderminster, claimant numbers were up 110 to 3,715 (6.4 per cent).

ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan said: "Some effects of the pandemic on the labour market were beginning to unwind in July as parts of the economy reopened.

Furlough

"Fewer workers were away on furlough and average hours rose.

"The number of job vacancies continued to recover into August, too.

"Nonetheless, with the number of employees on the payroll down again in August and both unemployment and redundancies sharply up in July, it is clear that coronavirus is still having a big impact on the world of work."

The ONS said the increase in unemployment has particularly impacted young people, as it revealed a 76,000 rise in the number of unemployed people aged between 16 and 24 over the past year.

Meanwhile, the number of people in employment dropped to 32.98 million, falling 12,000 since the previous quarter.

Minister for Employment Mims Davies said: “We recognise that the pandemic has been difficult for many people who are worried about their incomes and that’s why our £30 billion Plan for Jobs is aimed at protecting, supporting and creating jobs and it’s welcome news that there is some recovery in vacancies.

“Meanwhile, we’re creating hundreds of thousands of fully subsidised new jobs for young people through our £2bn Kickstart Scheme to give those starting out a leg up onto the career ladder and offer them hope for the future. And within our jobcentres we’re recruiting a further 13,500 work coaches so all jobseekers throughout the UK have access to tailored support, to build their skills and pivot into new roles.”

Karen Townley, Universal Credit operations leader for Jobcentre Plus in Walsall, said that in the Black Country an increase in claims was expected in the next two months and after the Government furlough scheme finished at the end of October.

She said an increasing number of employers in the area were signing up to the Kickstart scheme to help support young people into work.

"We are also seeing seeing some employers looking to recruit as well as those who are making redundancies with HGV drivers and security staff among those in demand," she added

Matthew Percival, Confederation of British Industry director of people and skills, said: “The easing of lockdown restrictions and a more flexible Job Retention Scheme in July have led to the beginning of a recovery in vacancies and hours worked. But rising redundancies, rising unemployment and a record fall in the number of young people in work are clear warning signs of what is to come.

“Looking ahead, a successor to the Job Retention Scheme is needed to protect jobs and businesses.”

British Chambers of Commerce head of economics Suren Thiru said: “Despite the slight rise in the unemployment rate, the furlough scheme continues to limit the pandemic’s full impact on headline job figures.

"However, the decline in employees on payrolls and the rise in the claimant count in August as the furlough scheme began to taper is a clear warning that the full impact of coronavirus on the UK labour market is yet to come.

“While there was a rise in the number of job vacancies, this is more likely to reflect a temporary bounce as the economy gradually opened, rather than a meaningful upturn in demand for labour. With many firms are still facing waves of cash flow problems, rising costs and an uncertain economic outlook, it is probable that unemployment will escalate sharply as government support winds down.

“To help avoid a damaging cliff edge for jobs more must be done help firms keep staff on through this deeply challenging period. This should include a significant cut in employer National Insurance contributions and more substantial support for firms placed under local lockdowns.”

John Corser

By John Corser
Business Reporter

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

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