The West Midlands has again defied a nationwide fall in unemployment after a rise of 18,000 in the last quarter – and is creeping closer to the dark days of the 1980s.
The West Midlands remains second only to the North East in the unemployment league, with a rate of 9.9 per cent after the total number out of work rose to 272,000 in the quarter to June.
It is the highest rate since the recession, when the region spent about six months with a rate of more than 10 per cent, and has echoes of the mid-1980s and early 1990s, when previous recessions saw 12 per cent and around 10 per cent out of work.
Birmingham band UB40 had highlighted the despair of the jobless during Margaret Thatcher’s first term of office with their 1981 hit single, One in Ten.
Today’s regional rate exceeds the national average, 7.8 per cent, by more than two per cent, and came as Office for National Statistics data showed a UK-wide fall in unemployment of 4,000 jobs.
There has also been a major fall in employment in the most recent quarter – which was 26,000 down in the region – although employment has actually risen by 20,000 according to Government statistics in the past year.
Steve Brittan, president of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group, said the figures showed there needed to be an improvement in skills among job candidates in the region.
He said: “These figures are a paradox as firms tell us they are still facing recruitment difficulties but this could be explained by the high skills deficit.”
The unemployment rate of 9.9 per cent in the West Midlands compares to 10.3 per cent in the North East, but 8.2 per cent in the North West, 7.9 per cent in the East Midlands, 6.5 per cent in the East and 8.8 per cent in London.
UK unemployment fell by just 4,000 in the three months to June leaving 2.51 million out of work, while the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in July fell more sharply, down by 29,000 to 1.4 million.
But youth unemployment, among 16 to 24-year-olds, increased by 15,000 to reach 973,000, while the number of people out of work for more than two years rose by 10,000 to 474,000, the highest since 1997.
The national unemployment rate remains above the seven per cent rate target set by the Bank of England, after which it would entertain a rise in interest rates.
Mike Ashton, spokesman for the West Midlands Chambers of Commerce, said: “These figures will be particularly worrying for youngsters getting their A-level results.”
However, despite the sub-regional rise, in the last 12 months figures for unemployed people in Coventry and Warwickshire have fallen by more than 1,500.
The national trend was also positive with employment reaching a record high of 29.8 million.
Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “One set of positive figures does not signal an end to the recession and does not make a trend, but it is very encouraging news.
“This, coupled with very positive export figures for the West Midlands and better news from the EU, does reflect what we are hearing on the ground from our members.”
However, Ravi Subramanian, regional secretary for union Unison in the West Midlands, said times were tough in the region.
He said: “The national figures mask the distress inflicted upon the people in the West Midlands.
“This month, once again, our region has suffered the highest number of people losing their jobs, 18,000 more now have to rely on benefits.
“This upward trend pushes up our regional unem