Unemployment falls in the West Midlands

The number out of work in the West Midlands fell in the three months to March and the numbers claiming unemployment benefits last month were also down.

The region's unemployment figure was down 11,000 from the previous quarter to 169,000 with the claimant total falling by 4,695 to 266,435.

Nationally the number of UK workers on payrolls surged for the fifth month in a row in April as the lifting of lockdown restrictions saw the reopening of shops and outdoor dining on April 12, official figures have shown.

The Office for National Statistics said the number of payroll workers rose by 97,000 between March and April, while it added that job vacancies also continued to increase as the economy jumped back into life.

The latest figures show that the overall rate of unemployment fell once more, to 4.8 per cent in January to March – the largest quarterly decrease since September to November 2015 – with the national unemployment figure was 1.62 million – down 121,000. The West Midlands rate was 5.7 per cent.

New jobs are rapidly coming on stream across the region with Amazon having announced 10,000 more jobs – many in the West Midlands – last week; Severn Trent planning to create 2,500 jobs in its Green Recovery programme and Walsall-based HomeServe recruiting 85 customer service staff.

Construction jobs are also being created with work starting on the major Phoenix 10 project at Walsall. Property developer HBD,Walsall Council and Homes England are to transform the 44-acre former James Bridge Copper Works.

At Wednesfield the Canadian cafe chain Tim Hortons is creating 40 jobs with the opening of a drive-thru restaurant at Bentley Bridge Retail park.

Samantha McLean, for Jobcentre Plus in the Black Country, said: "It is good that new opportunities are now becoming available in a lot of different sectors."

She said that Jobcentre Plus was focused on delivering opportunities for young people in the region through the Government's Kickstart scheme.

"With more people now looking to go out and about and pubs and restaurants reopen indoors, we are developing Kickstart opportunities in the hospitality sector," she explained.

Jobcentre Plus is also holding its first Kickstart virtual jobs fair for the Black Country on Wednesday from 11am to 12 noon on Twitter at @JCPInTheBC.

They will then take place each Wednesday showcasing some of the Kickstart vacancies available in and around the Black Country with the hashtags #BCKickstart and #BlackCountryJobs.

Priority

The number in work in the West Midlands in January to March was 2.79 million – 74.2 per cent of the working population. The UK employment rate is 75.2 per cent.

In the Black Country, Dudley saw the biggest drop in people claiming unemployment benefits, including Universal Credit, by 400 to 14,085 (7.3 per cent of the working population). Sandwell was down by 270 to 19,755 (9.7 per cent), Wolverhampton had 235 fewer claimants at 17,250 (10.6 per cent) and Walsall fell by 230 to 15,150 (8.7 per cent).

Staffordshire's claimant total of 24,960 (4.7 per cent) was down 560 on March. South Staffordshire fell by 160 to 2,945 (4.4 per cent), Cannock Chase was down 115 to 3,340 (5.3 per cent), Lichfield reduced by 50 to 2,730 (4.4 per cent) and Stafford had 20 fewer claimants at 3,385 (4.1 per cent).

The Wyre Forest district, including Kidderminster, saw a fall of 160 to 3.345 (5.7 per cent).

Deputy leader of the Wolverhampton Council Conservative Group, Councillor Simon Bennett, said: “It is encouraging to see Wolverhampton’s overall unemployment edge down this month, but tackling unemployment needs to be one of this council’s top priorities. Having the highest unemployment rate in the Black Country and seventh highest in the UK is not where we want to see the city.”

But the data also showed the toll taken by the crisis on the jobs market, with 772,000 fewer UK workers on payrolls than before the pandemic struck last spring.

Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said: "The number of employees on payroll rose strongly in April as the economy began to reopen, continuing the improvement from its November trough.

"There remains, however, three quarters of a million people fewer on the payroll compared with the pre-pandemic peak.

"With many businesses reopening, the recent recovery in job vacancies continued into April, especially in sectors such as hospitality and entertainment.

"The renewed lockdown at the beginning of 2021 saw a sharp rise in the number of previously unemployed people no longer looking for work, helping the unemployment rate to fall on the quarter.

"This mirrored what happened during the first lockdown."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "Protecting and creating jobs continues to be my top priority.

"While sadly not every job can be saved, nearly 2 million fewer people are now expected to be out of work than initially expected – showing our Plan for Jobs is working.

Minister for Employment Mims Davies MP said: “A continued fall in unemployment, a further rise in vacancies, and growth in the employment rate is welcome news as we continue on our roadmap to recovery.

“While there is more to do to make sure we support jobseekers over the coming months, these figures highlight the resilience of our jobs market and ability for employers to adapt – and through our Plan for Jobs we’re continuing to create new opportunities for people right across the country.”

British Chambers of Commerce head of economics, Suren Thiru, said: “The decline in the unemployment rate and the rise in payroll employment is further confirmation that the UK jobs market is now more resilient to the ongoing restrictions.

“Continued Government support and the easing of restrictions as the UK moved to step two of the government’s road map helped drive higher payroll employment in April.

“The rise in the number of job vacancies points to an encouraging upturn in demand for labour amid the gradual reopening of the economy and the strong vaccine rollout."

Matthew Percival, Confderation of British Industry director of people and skills, said: "Having the highest number of vacancies since the pandemic first hit shows the value of the road map for reopening the economy. However, businesses are starting to report vacancies they're struggling to fill so Government support for skills and retraining is essential.

“Businesses increasingly need to know what rules will be in place after June 21 to make their next reopening decisions. They're hoping to avoid any further bumps in the road and will be closely watching the trajectory of new variants and the conclusion of reviews into social distancing and Covid-status certificates.”

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