Birmingham continues to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country with 51,000 people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance in the city, new figures show.

And the number of claimants has increased by 5,201 over the past 12 months.

Wolverhampton and Birmingham occupy two of the four worst places in the UK for unemployment rates.

West Midlands business leaders urged the Government to promote a “culture of entrepreneurism” and to encourage banks to lend to industry – and warned they could not create jobs without state support.

At the same time, the new figures showed that the national unemployment rate across the UK has increased to a 16-year high, with 2.67 million people out of work, an unemployment rate of 8.4 per cent.

Unemployment in the West Midlands stood at 247,000, a rate of 9.3 per cent, after an increase of 13,000 compared to the three months before.

The latest official statistics for unemployment at local authority level are measured in a different way to the national and regional figures, and show the proportion of the total population aged 16 to 64 who are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.

In Birmingham, 7.6 per cent of the population, one in 13 people, is claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance – the fourth worst figure in the country, behind Hull, Wolverhampton and Hartlepool.

In Wolverhampton, 11,761 people are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, 7.7 per cent of the working-age population. This is up by 898 over 12 months.

It means Birmingham has the biggest unemployment problem of any of the eight “core cities” of England, including Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Nottingham, Sheffield and Newcastle.

Another unemployment hotspot is Sandwell, where 13,478 people claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, a rate of 7.3 per cent, which is up by 1,065 over the past year.

Across the UK as a whole, the claimant rate is 3.9 per cent, about half the Birmingham figure.

Business leaders urged the Government to act quickly to help create jobs in the West Midlands.

Michael Ward, president of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group, said: “While the help announced last week for business to recruit apprentices is extremely welcome, especially among small and medium-sized enterprises, much more needs to be done.

“The business community is ready to help but it cannot pull jobs out of a hat, especially in areas of the community most hit by unemployment.”

He warned that measures to raise the retirement age would make it increasingly hard for young people to find jobs.

“Extending the default retirement age works against job creation so we need to help our young people set up their own businesses and generate sustained growth and jobs rather than languishing on benefits.

“But they can’t do this without banks doing their bit and a concerted effort from the government to help generate a culture of entrepreneurism.”

John Rider, West Midlands chairman of the Institute of Directors, said: “I fear unemployment will continue to rise for some months yet and will take time to turn around even when things improve, which eventually they will.

“We have had some good news on inflation this week, the Bank of England’s on-going quantitative easing programme is helping provide liquidity, the success story that is Jaguar Land Rover continues with a £559 million profit in its latest quarter – so hopefully business confidence will begin to pick up.”

But he warned: “In the meanwhile the next quarter GDP statistics will probably place the economy officially in recession again, meaning everyone will need to keep their nerve in the short term.”

Labour claimed the unemployment figures showed that the Government’s spending cuts had choked off economic growth.

Birmingham Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne (Lab), the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said:“The Government has been raising taxes and cutting spending too far and too fast and the results are now clear for all to see – they are failing on jobs and failing on the economy and the cost of that failure is an eye watering £158 billion of extra borrowing and over a million young people on the dole.”

The Government said the figures showed that despite continuing economic challenges, the labour market was stabilising.

Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said: “The latest figures show some encouraging signs of stability despite the challenging economic climate.

“With more people in employment and a rise in vacancies, it is clear the private sector is still creating jobs.

“However, we are not complacent. With more people in the labour market we know that competition for those jobs is tough and we will continue to make it our priority to find people work.”

?Next page: Pertemps and the Welfare To Work programme >>

Pertemps and the Welfare To Work programme

As the number of people out of work in the West Midlands continues to soar, it can be easy to forget that behind the headlines there are major efforts being made to get people back to work – and with some significant success.

Pertemps People Development Group (PPDG) has been delivering Government-funded Welfare to Work initiatives for the past 13 years and in that time it has managed to get more than 100,000 job seekers into sustained employment, trained more than 130,000 people in vocational skills, and provided more than 175,000 others with professional information, advice and guidance.

The company employs around 700 people, the majority of whom work with job seekers to provide the bridge to employment.

Identifying the right sort of people with the right competencies to fill local job vacancies is as important as providing those new recruits with the skills and qualifications they need to be a success, according to PPDG’s chief executive Steve King, who believes his organisation can be a driver in pushing down unemployment figures.

“We understand that employers, regardless of size or sector, require a range of services to meet their business needs: from recruiting new employees to developing and retaining their existing workforce.

“What many employers don’t appreciate is that through Welfare to Work providers such as ourselves, they can benefit from a free-of-charge recruitment service.

"We need those companies with vacancies to realise that they can tap into a free, time-saving and tailored recruitment service which not only helps their business to succeed but also significantly reduces regional unemployment.

"Over the years we have worked very hard earning an exceptional reputation for successfully matching candidates with employers’ specific requirements that leads to an unrivalled record of high job retentions.

“Times are tough for businesses and local job seekers, particularly those starting their careers. It’s one reason we have recently engaged with apprenticeships and are now offering to help regional businesses design and deliver similar programmes regardless of size or the number of apprentices they’re looking for.

"If they talk to us we’re confident we can change their approach to recruitment for the better.”

Nicki Lewis-Downing, PPDG’s employer engagement director, is in daily contact with firms across the region to discuss potential vacancies and to explore ways in which the company can provide a range of deliverable outsourced services.

In recent months her team has worked closely with major employers such as Tesco and the NHS, as well as SMEs, resulting in numerous jobseekers getting work.

She said: “Irrespective of size of business, recruitment can be a costly and resource consuming exercise. If you have the ability to outsource the management of new employees while developing a close working and trustworthy partnership with the provider, costs can unquestionably be driven down.”

Recent examples include working alongside University Hospital Birmingham’s NHS Learning Hub and Walsall Manor Hospital to give unemployed people in the West Midlands the chance to begin a new career in nursing.

The scheme is already giving jobseekers the opportunity to work in local hospitals with many now starting out as auxiliary nurses.

It has also worked with one of the UK’s biggest toy retailers which gave 33 jobs to people from Walsall, Birmingham and Solihull at its superstores with the support of PPDG.

PPDG has put its money where its mouth is, taking on 60 young apprentices. “The programme gives young people a chance to contribute in a real working environment, learning and applying their skills in a practical setting,” said PPDG’s HR manager Juliet Mortiss.

“Engaging with an apprenticeship scheme is a tremendous way for us to attract and nurture young talent. We have high hopes for those starting out on their career and I’m certain they will derive great benefit from their time here.”

The company has its headquarters in Edgbaston, Birmingham with a further 23 centres across the Midlands and recently won the People Development Award at the Birmingham Post Business Awards in 2011.