Today’s disastrous unemployment figures have been greeted with a sense of shock and deep concern across the devolved nations, reports Ed Jacobs.
Today’s disastrous unemployment figures have been greeted with a sense of shock and deep concern across the devolved nations.
With nine per cent of people recorded as being out of work, Wales has an unemployment rate substantially higher than the UK average, with 16,000 people having lost their jobs in the last three months alone, bringing the total up to 131,000.
Coming just a day after first minister, Carwyn Jones, announced details of his government’s Job Growth Fund to create 4,000 new job opportunities a year for unemployed young people, aged 16-24, the Welsh business and enterprise minister Edwina Hart responded:
“Today’s figures are extremely disappointing and reflect the fragility of the global economy. Whilst many of the macro economic levers are the responsibility of the UK Government we are continuing to do all we can to support businesses in Wales.
“Our new £75m Jobs Growth Wales scheme will create 4,000 jobs a year for three years for young jobseekers across Wales and our extended Adapt programme is targeting people who have lost jobs in the public sector and is helping them to retrain and to get back into work.”
In his response, meanwhile, Plaid Cymru’s economy spokesman Alun Ffred Jones AM, calling for spending on capital infrastructure, explained:
“These figures underline the urgent need for a comprehensive package of measures from the Welsh government to get to grips with the economic crisis. It’s clear that the situation in Wales is deteriorating more quickly than in other parts of the UK. In particular, the increase in the number of young people who are out of work is utterly alarming.
“We need spending on infrastructure projects in order to boost the economy and create jobs in all parts of Wales. The economic crisis is hitting us here in Wales now – but yet the Labour Welsh Government still isn’t taking any action. This can’t go on – and these figure show why.”
Across Scotland, the last three months saw the number out of work increase by 7,000, leading to an unemployment rate of 7.9% compared with the UK’s 8.1%.
Pressing the UK government to change course, first minister Alex Salmond argued:
“While the Scottish labour market continues to outperform the UK as a whole – with lower unemployment, higher employment, and lower economic inactivity rates – today’s figures reinforce our urgent and consistent demand that the UK Government must deliver a ‘Plan MacB’ approach immediately, to ensure that the recovery being built in Scotland is not derailed by Westminster’s wrong-headed economic policy.
“Scottish unemployment is down by 25,000 from its peak during the recession, but joblessness across the UK is now at its highest level since 1994.
“A Westminster ‘Plan MacB’ must deliver real action in the areas where Scottish Government policy is making a difference: increased capital expenditure, improved access to finance for medium and small sized businesses, as well as the introduction of measures to boost consumer confidence and economic security.”
Salmond went on to suggest the figures out today demonstrate why Holyrood needed all the economic powers of an independent state to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.
For his part, Scottish secretary Michael Moore recognised the figures were “painful” and a “cause for concern” for families north of the border.
Of all three of the devolved nations, Northern Ireland is perhaps better positioned than either Scotland or Wales. Whilst the headline figure of the number out of work increasing to 60,900, the highest level since September 1997, it remains the case the rate of those out of work, at 7.6%, remains noticeably less bad than the UK total.
Responding, enterprise minister Arlene Foster explained the figures showed a need to do even more to create new jobs across Northern Ireland:
“It is clear from this month’s figures that, whilst our primary focus must remain on creating the higher value jobs that drive productivity and competitiveness, there remains a very real issue with getting people either back, or into, work.
“Invest Northern Ireland’s Short Term Employment Scheme is designed to do just that and, last month I was pleased to be able to announce that Capita is to create over 330 jobs through an investment which will help many families.
“The pipeline of projects is strong and I expect more announcements to be made in the coming weeks, from businesses large and small across Northern Ireland. However, we need to do more and, as part of Invest NI’s wider Boosting Business initiative, it has introduced a number of changes to encourage as many businesses as possible to take advantage of the support available.”
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• Unemployment hits 17-year high – record number of young people out of work – Shamik Das, October 12th 2011
• Commons to vote today on Labour’s five-point plan for jobs – Shamik Das, October 12th 2011
• UK growth down as IMF warn deficit reduction should not be at the expense of growth – Shamik Das, October 5th 2011
• Reducing job security won’t decrease unemployment – Sara Ibrahim, October 4th 2011
• Welsh government outlines vision for “fairer and more prosperous country” – Ed Jacobs, September 28th 2011