Express & Star

Fewer claim unemployment benefits in the West Midlands

UK workers saw their pay lag behind inflation at record levels over the past quarter, according to official figures.

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The Jobcentre in Wolverhampton city centre on the corner of Queen Street and Market Street.

The Office for National Statistics said regular pay, excluding bonuses, grew by 4.7 per cent over the three months to June.

Analysts had predicted that wages would increase by 4.5 per cent.

It comes after CPI inflation hit a new 40-year record of 9.4 per cent in June and is expected to peak at around 11 per cent later this year.

The ONS said this resulted in a 4.1 per cent drop in regular pay for employees once CPI inflation is taken into account, representing the biggest slump since records began in 2001.

Official figures also showed that the number of UK workers on payrolls rose by 73,000 between June and July to 29.7 million.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate increased to 3.8 per cent for the quarter compared with 3.7 per cent for the previous period. There were 1.29 million unemployed in the three months to June.

ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan said: "The number of people in work grew in the second quarter of 2022, whilst the headline rates of unemployment and of people neither working nor looking for a job were little changed.

"Meanwhile, the total number of hours worked each week appears to have stabilised very slightly below pre-pandemic levels.

"Redundancies are still at very low levels.

"However, although the number of job vacancies remains historically very high, it fell for the first time since the summer of 2020."

Vacancy numbers hit 1.27 million over the three months from May to July, slipping by 19,800 in the first signal the UK's hot labour market could be cooling.

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi said: "Today's stats demonstrate that the jobs market is in a strong position, with unemployment lower than at almost any point in the past 40 years _ good news in what I know are difficult times for people.

"This highlights the resilience of the UK economy and the fantastic businesses who are creating new jobs across the country."

In the West Midlands the unemployment figure was 138,000 (4.6 per cent of the working population) in the three months to June.

The region's employment rate was 60 per cent – 2.83 million.

The West Midlands saw a fall in the numbers claiming unemployment benefits, including Universal Credit last month. The total of 177,925 (4.8 per cent) was down 2.010 on June. The national claimants total was 1.54m (3.7 per cent).

In the Black Country Sandwell saw the biggest fall of 270 to 13,515 (6.6 per cent) with Wolverhampton down 185 to 12,070 (7.4 per cent).

Walsall had 165 fewer claimants at 9.705 (5.6 per cent) and Dudley was down by 145 to 9,500 (4.9 per cent).

Staffordshire had a drop of 40 to 14,430 (2.7 per cent).Lichfield 1,555 (2.5 per cent) and South Staffordshire 1,710 (2.6)per cent both had a drop of 20 with Cannock Chase down five to 1,950 (3.1 per cent).

Stafford bucked the trend with a rise of 20 to 1,970 (2.4 per cent).

Wyre Forest, including Kidderminster, also had a rise and was up 25 to 1,915 (3.3 per cent).

Richard Rawlings, Halesowen Jobcentre manager, said: “As we come to the end of a hot summer, with many job vacancies still available, jobcentres are focussed on helping employers get the people they and the economy need.

"Across the Black Country, Jobcentres continue to host local businesses. Employers on site recently include Smyths Toys, British Car Auctions, Howdens, and Green Square Accord.

"From job opportunities in jobcentres to skills academies, there’s a huge amount of help available, and work coaches are working tirelessly to get people at any age, or career stage, into rewarding and stable employment."

The regional jobcentres are currently helping National Express recruit trainee bus and coach drivers to fill shortages.

Matthew Percival, the Confederation of British Industry's director of employment, said: “It’s another month where pay falls further as businesses and workers struggle with rising costs like energy prices. Employers are doing their level best to support staff through this period, but the vast majority can’t afford large enough pay rises to keep up with inflation.

“Speaking to employers it’s clear that filling roles remains a primary concern and is proving a handbrake on the UK’s economic prospects."

The British Chambers of Commerce head of people policy, Jane Gratton, said: “The labour market remains incredibly tight adding to the growing list of concerns businesses are facing. This is a ticking time bomb for firms up and down the country.

“Today’s figures show little improvement for employers over the last quarter. Despite the small increase in employment levels, the number of job vacancies in the economy remains around the highest on record. Competition for skills and labour continues to drive up wage costs.

“Skills and labour shortages have reached crisis point for many firms. The impact is being felt on their ability to meet customer demand and forcing some to turn away new business, because they simply do not have the human resource. This is restricting growth and business confidence. It’s a serious and urgent problem."