Business leaders welcome positive news on jobs

Positive news on West Midlands’ employment figures have been welcomed by business leaders in Greater Birmingham.

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show the unemployment rate in the region fell to 5.7% to 164,000 for the May to July quarter – a decrease of 0.1% over the quarter.

The employment rate for the West Midlands was 72.7% – an increase of 0.8 percentage points. This mirrored a 0.8 percentage point increase nationally, however, the region remains behind the UK average, which is 75.3%.

The region’s economic inactivity rate was 22.7% – a decrease of 0.5 percentage points. This fell by 0.4 percentage points nationally.

In the year ending June 2017, the largest rise in workforce jobs was in the West Midlands, with an increase of 110,000.

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “These latest statistics are certainly positive, particularly given the continuation of excellent news on job creation, which reflects the vibrant economy in the West Midlands.

“We are also glad to see a decrease in economic inactivity and a continuation of the strong upward trend in employment that we saw in the last quarter.

“While there has been a slight fall in unemployment however, it is lower than the national average and remains high overall. There is yet more to be done to ensure that the slight decrease we are seeing becomes an exponential trend.”

He said the chambers were keen to identify which sectors in the region were looking to increase their workforce, and where the reported growth was occurring.

In Coventry and Warwickshire, the area’s chamber of commerce said the picture would continue to flat-line unless barriers to economic growth were removed.

The chamber compiles its data on a month-by-month basis. It said that in August, unemployment fell from 4,325 to 4,310, while in Warwickshire it rose slightly from 4,350 to 4,395, resulting in a small overall rise in the claimant count across the region.

Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “There are, undoubtedly, barriers to business growth and it’s vitally important that we continue to try to remove those in order to ensure our economy grows and we create jobs for today and for the future.

“Of course, we have Brexit in the background and while it is causing uncertainty, there are many other factors.

“Businesses across the region are telling us that employment land is in short supply – so if they want to expand or if we want to attract new businesses here, it’s becoming increasingly tight. We have, in the past two weeks, met two MPs from the local area and raised this with them.”

The chamber will relay the message to other MPs from the area at a series of branch meetings over the next few weeks.