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West Midlands sees big falls in unemployment but benefit claims rising

By Simon Penfold | Business | Published:

The West Midlands has seen a dramatic fall in the number of people out of work, while figures for those in employment have surged in recent months.

Unemployment fell sharply in the West Midlands in the three months to February

Latest unemployment figures nationwide have seen the number in work hit a record high, rising 55,000 in the three months to February to 32.2 million - the highest figure since records began in 1971.

Unemployment fell by 16,000 to 1.42 million, the lowest in more than a decade, giving a jobless rate of 4.2 per cent, the lowest since 1975, according to the Office for National Statistics.

In the West Midlands the jobless rate fell from 5.5 per cent to five per cent over the three months, as the number out of work fell by 12,000 to 143,000. It reverses a recent trend of rising unemployment statistics in the region.

The number of people in work in the West Midlands leapt by 34,000 over the quarter, to 2.72 million.

But last month saw another big jump in the number of people across the West Midlands claiming unemployment benefits, including Jobseeker’s Allowance and the unemployment element of Universal Credit.

Nationally the claimant count increased by 11,600 last month to 855,300, the highest for more than three years.

In the West Midlands the claimant count soared by 2,835 to 95,615. The jump is thought to be due to the increasing roll-out of Universal Credit across the region.

Claimant numbers were up across the Black Country and Staffordshire.

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In Dudley the claimant number rose by 195 to 7,005, while in Wolverhampton it was up by 190 to 7,185. In Sandwell the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits rose by 140 in March to 7,470 while in Walsall it was up by 85 to 5,155.

In Staffordshire too, the number of claimants was up, by 295 to 6,795. In Cannock Chase it rose by 45 to 915, while in South Staffordshire it was up by 15 to 880. In Lichfield the figure was up by 105 to 670, but Stafford bucked the local trend with a fall of 40 to 800.

In Kidderminster and Wyre Forest the number of claimants also fell, down by 25 last month to 945.

Nationally, earning have grown slightly above inflation for the first time in almost a year. Average earnings increased by 2.8 per cent in the year to February, unchanged on the previous month and the highest since September 2015.

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The latest CPI inflation figure is 2.7 per cent and is expected to remain unchanged when new figures are published on Wednesday.

Matt Hughes, senior ONS statistician, said: "The labour market continues to be strong and, for the first time in almost a year, earnings have grown slightly after inflation has been taken into account."

The number of people classed as economically inactive, including students, those on long-term sick leave, on early retirement, or who have given up looking for work, fell by 2,000 to 8.7 million in the latest quarter, giving a rate of 21%, a joint record low.

Job vacancies remained unchanged at 815,000, while the number of self-employed workers fell for the second successive quarter - down by 18,000 to 4.76 million.

Simon Penfold

By Simon Penfold
Business Editor - @SPenfold_star

Business Editor based at the Express & Star's head office in Wolverhampton, looking for stories big & small.

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