West Midlands unemployment defies national trend with 19,000 rise

UNEMPLOYMENT in the West Midlands has defied the national trend and seen a further steep rise with 19,000 more people joining the dole queue in the region during the last quarter.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in the February to April quarter there were 259,000 people out of work, a rate of 9.4% – one of the highest in the country.

In contrast, the UK figure as a whole declined by 5,000 meaning there are now 2.51m unemployed. The fall was so small that it failed to impact on the overall rate, which now stands at 7.8%.

Business leaders in the region have expressed concern over the continued rise.

Steve Brittan, president of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said: “These figures again represent the skills deficit which affecting the region. Businesses need a simplified route into the multitude of initiatives to help them gain access to a skilled workforce.”

He said the chamber was working in partnership with the National Apprenticeship Service to encourage companies to take on apprentices as well as supporting other initiatives from Birmingham City Council and Job Centre Plus.

The council’s campaign is to achieve 1,000 apprentice start-ups in 100 days and in support of this, businesses are able to access a grant of £1,500 to take on an apprentice, which Birmingham businesses can top up to £3,000 with grant support.

Mike Ashton, spokesman for the West Midlands Chambers of Commerce, said: “The perennial problem of access to finance to SMEs is hindering employment. SMEs drive the economy in the region, and high level of uncertainty can prevent them from taking on and training new workers. The chamber has supported the Business Bank initiative in order to deliver more effective finance to allow small firms to grow.”

Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber opted for a more positive approach and said figures for the month between April to May had actually shown a fall in unemployment in the area.

It said in Coventry the figure dropped from 9,607 to 9,432 and across Warwickshire it fell from 7,805 to 7,477 giving a total drop for the month of more than 500.

Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is positive news for Coventry and Warwickshire and highlights that there are many businesses out there that are growing and taking on new staff.

“Further to that, the good work of my colleagues here at the chamber is seeing more and more individuals coming to us looking to start their own business.

“We are finding that more and more people who find themselves out of work are looking to start-up on their own rather than looking for employment.”