Unemployment rises across the region

The number of people out of work across the region increased in the three months to the end of July, new figures show.

For the West Midlands – which includes Shropshire – there were 149,000 unemployed, 3,000 more than the previous three months. The region's unemployment rate rose to 5.1 per cent.

Meanwhile, there was a slight fall in the number of people in work in the West Midlands, down from 2.79 million to 2.77 million. The employment rate fell to 74.2 per cent.

Nationally, UK worker numbers have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels after the biggest jump in employment since 2014.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the number of UK workers on payrolls rose by 241,000 between July and August to move 1,000 above levels before the coronavirus outbreak.

It also said the rate of unemployment dropped again, to 4.6 per cent – in line with analysts' predictions.

Meanwhile, vacancy numbers soared by 249,000 to more than one million for the first time since records began amid labour shortages in some key UK industries.

Nationally, numbers claiming unemployment benefits, including Universal Credit, were 2.18 million last month with the West Midlands figure down 6,645 to 230,735 (6.3 per cent of the working population).

Shropshire had 365 fewer claimants at 6,580 (3.4 per cent), with Telford and Wrekin dropping by 185 to 5,545 (5 per cent).

Powys also experienced a fall of 120 to 2,495 (3.3 per cent).

Ben Vaughan, Shropshire employer adviser manager at Jobcentre Plus, said: “The number of people making claims to Universal Credit continues to fail across Shropshire, with Shropshire’s constituencies claimant numbers reducing at a greater rate than national levels.

"The numbers of Universal Credit claimants of all ages across Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin are now at their lowest levels since July 2020 as Shropshire continues to show strong signs of sustained economic recovery.

"The number of advertised vacancies continues to rise locally, and many of our key employers and industries have reported strong summers in terms of trade and activity.

"Shropshire has also benefited significantly from the Government’s 'Plan for Jobs' strategy, with hundreds of 18-24 jobseekers starting work through the Kickstart scheme.

"Jobcentre Plus are also partnering with Shrewsbury Town in the Community, Shrewsbury Town Football Club’s official charity to host a Kickstart jobs fair at the Montgomery Waters Meadow on October 1 between 10am and 1pm, that will see up to 20 employers attend to promote their Kickstart vacancies.

"Our local Youth Hub network is also having a significant impact as the partnership between Jobcentre Plus and both our local authorities continues to deliver results. Our Oswestry Hub has already supported a significant number of younger jobseekers to find employment, as has our Telford Youth Hub, which is also hosting a number of employers this week to conduct job interviews for the hospitality sector."

Jonathan Athow, ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics, said: "Early estimates from payroll data suggest that in August the total number of employees is around the same level as before the pandemic, though our surveys show well over a million are still on furlough.

"However, this recovery isn't even: in hard-hit areas such as London, and sectors such as hospitality and arts and leisure, the numbers of workers remain well down on pre-pandemic levels.

"The overall employment rate continues to recover, particularly among groups such as young workers who were hard hit at the outset of the pandemic, while unemployment has fallen.

"Vacancies reached a new record high.

"Not surprisingly, this is driven above all by hospitality, the sector with the highest proportion of employers reporting their job openings are hard to fill."

The ONS also reported a "strong increase" in the employment rate among people aged between 16 and 24, alongside a decrease in the unemployment and inactivity rates.

Young people had seen particularly significant increases in unemployment as retail, hospitality and leisure roles were impacted by the pandemic.

The latest figures showed significant growth in these industries, as they helped push vacancies to record levels.

The number of job vacancies recorded between June to August 2021 was 1,034,000, with the accommodation and food services industry seeing a 75.4 per cent increase in the number of job openings.

Mr Athow added that the hospitality sector recorded "the highest proportion of employers reporting their job openings are hard to fill".

Meanwhile, the ONS also reported a continued increase in wage growth, with total earnings, including bonuses, rising by 8.3 per cent for the three months to July against the same period last year.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "Today's statistics show that our plan for jobs is working – the unemployment rate has fallen for seven months in a row, the number of employees on payrolls is back above pre-pandemic levels and there were fewer potential redundancies notified in August than at any point since the start of last year.

"As we continue to recover from the pandemic, our focus remains on creating opportunities and supporting people's jobs."

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