Unemployment falls in Shropshire as Omicron fails to hit jobs market

Britain's jobs market strengthened further last month despite the Omicron variant of coronavirus hitting the UK and the Government's Plan B restrictions, official figures show.

The Jobcentre at The Square, Shrewsbury
The Jobcentre at The Square, Shrewsbury

The Office for National Statistics said the number of UK payrolled workers jumped by a record 184,000 month on month, or 0.6 per cent, in December to 29.5 million.

The figures also reveal that in the three months to November the unemployment rate fell back almost to where it was pre-Covid, to 4.1 per cent from 4.2 per cent in the previous quarter and close to the four per cent level seen in the last pre-pandemic quarter.

Across the West Midlands more people were in work and numbers claiming unemployment benefits fell.

For the region the unemployment rate was 4.7 per cent with 138,000 out of work – down 4,000 on the previous three months.

The number in work in the West Midlands was up 28,0000 to 2.81 million with the national figure at 32.47m.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits, including Universal Credit in the West Midlands fell by 7,020 last month to 200,965 (5.5 per cent of the working population).

The number claiming in Shropshire was down by 175 to 5,645 (three per cent) with Telford and Wrekin seeing a drop of 185 to 4,810 (4.3 per cent).

Powys also saw a fall in claimants of 65 to 2,155 (2.9 per cent).

Ben Vaughan, Shropshire employer manager at Jobcentre Plus, said: “Shropshire has started 2022 in the same vein it finished 2021, with a buoyant job market and continued reductions in its Universal Credit claimant count.

"Between November 2020 and November 2021, all our constituencies and both local authorities showed greater reductions in their total Universal Credit Claimant count’s when compared to reductions at a national level as we continue to see more people return to work than at any time during the pandemic.

"Younger jobseekers aged 18-24 are also returning to work at a faster rate than the wider West Midlands zone, with all our constituencies and both local authorities showing greater reductions in comparison for the same period.

"We also continue to see increasing numbers of advertised vacancies locally, and Jobcentre Plus is working closely with a number of national and local employers across many of our key employment sectors to support their current recruitment needs, alongside working with a number to open new premises, creating a significant number of new jobs across our county."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the figures were "proof that the jobs market is thriving, with employee numbers rising to record levels and redundancy notifications at their lowest levels since 2006 in December".

However Matthew Percival, Confederation of British Industry director of employment, said: “Rising inflation means that squeezed incomes joins the difficulties firms are facing filling vacancies as major challenges in the UK labour market. To break this cycle and deliver sustainably rising living standards, the UK needs a plan to unleash business investment and raise ambitions for growth.”

The ONS said the number of people employed is now 1.4 per cent, or 409,000, above levels seen before Covid.

But the figures laid bare the toll of recent soaring prices on household finances, with the ONS revealing that wages after taking account of inflation fell in November for the first time in more than a year.

Average pay after inflation, excluding bonuses, fell one per cent – the first drop since July 2020.

The latest data suggested there was little impact on Britain's buoyant jobs market from the spread of the new Covid variant in December and tightened restrictions.

This came in spite of a sharp drop off in trade for many sectors, particularly the services sector, combined with limited Government support.

Figures also confirmed the end of the furlough scheme in September has not led to the once-feared surge in job losses, with the redundancy rate falling to a record low in the three months to November.

The number of vacancies also surged to a fresh high of 1.25 million in the quarter to December - 128,000 more than the previous three months and 462,000 above the pre-Covid level as firms battled to secure workers.

But in a sign that the hiring crisis and staff shortages may finally be easing, the ONS said the rise in vacancies slowed down, falling from growth of more than 180,00 in the previous three months.

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