The number of UK workers on company payrolls edged up by 20,000 in September but has fallen by nearly 700,000 since March as the coronavirus crisis has claimed jobs across the economy, according to official figures.
The Office for National Statistics said the number of employees on payrolls dropped by 673,000 between March and September.
It added that UK unemployment rose by 138,000 quarter on quarter to 1.52 million in the three months to August.
This saw the rate of unemployment jump to 4.5 per cent, from 4.1 per cent in the previous three months.
For the West Midlands, while the unemployment figure was static at 135,000, the unemployment rate dropped from 4.9 per cent to 4.5 per cent and it was the only region to see a fall. The total in employment in the region was 2.79 million.
Numbers claiming unemployment benefits, including Universal Credit, in the West Midlands dropped slightly last month by 60 to 271,845 from August with a rate of 7.4 per cent of the working population.
In the Black Country only Walsall and Sandwell saw claimants rise – by 90 in Walsall to 15,410 – eight per cent; and 80 in Sandwell to 19,435, which is 9.5 per cent.
Wolverhampton remained at 17,280, or 10.6 per cent, with Dudley down 7.7 per cent – or 35 – to 14,830.
In Staffordshire claimants were down 135 to 26,595 – five per cent – with Cannock Chase seeing a drop of 115 to 3,700, or 5.8 per cent; Stafford down 85 to 3,685 – 4.4 per cent; Lichfield had 65 fewer claimants at 3,060 – five per cent; and South Staffordshire falling 55 to 3,080, or 4.6 per cent.
Wyre Forest, including Kidderminster, was down by 30 to 3,685 – a drop of 6.3 per cent.
Minister for Employment Mims Davies said: “We know the virus has impacted our jobs market in recent months and that’s why our £30 billion Plan for Jobs will continue to help protect, support and create jobs.
“It’s encouraging to see employers are bringing people back from furlough, and the number of vacancies is increasing.
“We’re supporting people into work, doubling the number of our Work Coaches across Jobcentres and helping those made jobless by the pandemic through our newly launched Job Entry Targeted Support.
"From next month young people across the country will be starting roles on the £2 billion Kickstart scheme helping them get crucial experience and build vital skills.”
Black Country Jobcentre Plus spokeswoman Samantha Mclean said that teams in the region were doing a lot of work on the new initiatives.
"We are supporting those who have been made jobless due to Covid-19 and targetting those that have been out of work for three months or more and offering specialist support.
"There are jobs available in other sectors particularly in supermarkets at the moment and JobCentre Plus itself is also recruiting."
'Employees on the payroll changed little'
Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS, said: "The latest monthly tax numbers show that the number of employees on the payroll was little changed in September.
"However, in total there were still nearly 700,000 fewer than in March, before the lockdown."
He added: "Since the start of the pandemic there has been a sharp increase in those out of work and job-hunting but more people telling us they are not actively looking for work.
"There has also been a stark rise in the number of people who have recently been made redundant."
Matthew Percival, Confederation of British Industry director for people and skills, said: “These figures are starting to show what everybody knew to be true; that redundancies are on the rise. While it’s promising to have seen vacancies pick up over the summer, the number of those out of work also grows.
“The Government’s flexibility and support packages have reduced job losses substantially over the summer and making support match tiered local lockdowns will protect jobs too.
“Successfully ramping up the testing regime will be a key component to securing an economic recovery down the road.”
Federation of Small Businesses national chairman Mike Cherry, a Staffordshire businessman, said: “These figures are a stark reminder of the human impact of this terrible pandemic.
"Through adjustments to the Job Support Scheme, the Government is making welcome efforts to aid job retention.
"As harsher restrictions take effect across many parts of England, further measures may well be needed.
“As our economy is changed for the long-term, policymakers should start looking at additional interventions to aid job creation.
"The new Kickstart and Job Entry Targeted Support initiatives, taken alongside incentives to hire apprentices, mark critical steps forward.
'Stimulate hiring activity'
"From here, we need to see the Government bringing down the upfront costs of employment across the board in order to stimulate hiring activity – starting with Employer National Insurance Contributions, which serve as a stifling jobs tax.
“Policymakers should also recognise the fundamental role that start-ups and the self-employed played in our recovery from the last recession.
"If we want them to play that role again, we have to throw them as many lifelines as possible.
"Too many have been excluded from support measures – including company directors and the newly self-employed – that needs to change.
“Equally, we need to look at how we encourage more of those currently out of work to strike out on their own.
"A Kickstart Start-Up initiative, modelled on the Kickstart scheme, for those looking to start their own firm could mark one way forward, building on the success of the New Enterprise Allowance and Start-Up Loan programmes.”