Brighter news on employment for the West Midlands

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Unemployment has seen a dramatic fall in the West Midlands, according to latest figures – although it remains above the national average.

Data from the Office for National Statistics shows there were 149,000 classed as unemployed in the West Midlands during the June to August period. The figure represents a fall of 17,000 on the March to May quarter.

The region’s unemployment rate is 5.2% – down 0.7% on the March to May period.

Nationally, there were 1.44m people unemployed by the end of the June to August period, 52,000 fewer than the March to May quarter and 215,000 fewer than the same period last year. The rate was 4.3%, down from 5% a year ago and the lowest figure since 1975.

Also of encouragement, employment in the West Midlands is also up – although this remains below the national average.

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “The West Midlands has made positive progress in reducing its unemployment rate, and it is pleasing to see such a fall.

“The rise in the number of people in employment is also to be welcomed, and together, these two measurements illustrate the region is heading in the right direction.”

However, he said this was only half the story and that more needed to be done to get more people into work so the region could close the gap on the national figures.

“We are hopeful that efforts such as the ongoing development of the Apprenticeship Levy and the introduction of T-levels by 2020, if executed effectively, will boost skills and employment regionally,” he added.

In Staffordshire, the county council said further business expansion was helping to strengthen both employment levels and the economy as a whole.

The latest unemployment claimant count figure for the county is just 1% of the local population, lower than both the regional (2.4%) and national (1.9%) averages.

It said the economy had been buoyed by two of its leading businesses announcing fresh expansion.

Jaguar Land Rover is planning to build a £40m storage facility for 6,500 vehicles in Stone, while Stafford-based Perkins, which produces diesel and gas engines for global export, has submitted plans for site expansion in the county town.

Staffordshire County Council economic growth leader Mark Winnington said: “Jaguar Land Rover’s announcement on plans for its storage facility in Stone demonstrates further commitment to Staffordshire and will complement its thriving manufacturing facility here.”

The picture was mixed in Warwickshire, where unemployment went up by 100 last month, although Coventry saw a small fall in its number of claimants.

In the month to September, the number of claimants in Warwickshire went from 4,305 to 4,405 while in Coventry it fell from 4,300 to 4,255.
The city and the county are, however, still performing better than the national average when it comes to unemployment figures.

Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The key to ensuring our economy continues to grow and that unemployment continues to fall is ensuring that the labour market has the skills needed to fulfil the roles that are out there in business and that barriers to business growth are removed.”