Wales’ rate of unemployment has risen again, with the latest figures showing an increase to 4.6% in the three months to November.
As the Coronavirus continued to hit the jobs market, there were 71,000 people unemployed and looking for work across Wales, according to the Newport-based Office for National Statistics (ONS).
That figure represents 14,000 more people unemployed than the previous quarter; and 25,000 more people out of work in Wales than at the same time last year.
UK-wide, the rate rose from 4.9% to 5%; and Wales continues to have a lower level of unemployment when compared to other nations and regions across the UK – though in the past year it has experienced the highest rate of unemployment growth outside London.
The true scale of the pandemic’s impact can be seen in the number of people claiming work-related benefits – the ‘claimant count’ – which rose to an historic high of 87% between December 2019 and December 2020.
During that time, average monthly wages in Wales increased by 5.4% to £1,784, suggesting that disproportionately more low-paid jobs have been lost, with the hardest hit sectors including the arts, hospitality, accommodation and food.
“The figures don’t tell the full story”
Talking to the BBC, Victoria Winckler, Director of the Bevan Foundation, warned: “I would expect that there are more people who are not working but not showing up in the figures. So the figures don’t really tell us the full story” and could “give us a false sense of security”.
Commenting on yesterdays’s Labour Market Statistics, Economy Minister Ken Skates said:
“While it is encouraging that unemployment in Wales remains below the UK rate, today’s figures are again a stark reminder of the severe impact coronavirus continues to have on our people, our businesses and our economy.
“We are continuing to do everything in our power to protect firms and jobs from the effects of the pandemic, whilst also helping people to find new employment. Our Welsh Government package of business support is the most generous and comprehensive in the UK and has already seen more than £1.7bn reach the bank accounts of businesses across Wales. This support has protected in excess of 125,000 jobs that might otherwise have been lost.
“More funding is continuing to reach businesses each day and later this week we will outline details of a further £200m being made available by the Welsh Government to support Welsh firms and safeguard Welsh jobs.
“We are also calling on the UK Government to provide further certainty to businesses and individuals by assuring that support available through interventions such as the Job Retention Scheme will not be withdrawn before the economy is ready.”
Responding to the latest official labour market statistics, Robert Lloyd Griffiths, National Director at the Institute of Directors in Wales, said:
“With our rate of unemployment having risen to 4.6%, there were 71,000 people unemployed and looking for work in Wales in November. That’s 14,000 more than in the three months to August and 25,000 more than the same time in 2019.
“These stark figures show how the pandemic continues to rip through the labour market but the furlough scheme will have provided an invaluable cushion for many firms, preventing unemployment from edging up even further.
“It is now crucial that the Job Retention Scheme and other Covid-19 economic support is extended beyond the spring to support employment as restrictions continue. The latest lockdown will have only added further pressure on firms with troubled balance sheets, which means more jobs are likely to be lost in the coming months.
“Both Welsh and UK Governments need to continue to work together to help firms retain, retrain and rehire workers as the vaccine rolls out and maxim ise all opportunities to shore up the economic recovery.”