Wales politics

Wales bottom of UK economy league as unemployment rises

The number of jobless people in Wales has jumped by 11,000 in the last quarter, taking the unemployment rate to 9.1%.

The number unemployed between August and October rose to 133,000, 8,000 higher than the same time last year.

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said the Welsh economy was enjoying "mixed fortunes".

Other figures published on Wednesday showed it grew faster than the UK as a whole in 2010.

But performance per head remains the lowest of the nations and regions.

Wales' claimant count last month was 78,100, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Numbers claiming jobseekers' allowance fell by 300 in November.

Separate data on the economy showed the total value of goods and services produced in Wales in 2010 was £45.5bn, up 3.5% on the previous year. The UK as a whole rose by 3.2%.

Together with the East Midlands, Wales saw the strongest increase in gross value added (GVA) per head at 3.3%. Across the UK the increase was 2.4%.

But at 74% of the UK average, GVA per head in Wales is still the lowest among the devolved countries and English regions.

Wales' ranking has not changed since 1998 when it fell below Northern Ireland.

There was a slight improvement in the GVA of west Wales and the valleys, which have received billions in assistance from the EU. Output rose from 62.6% of the UK average in 2008 to 62.8% 2009.

'Clear positives'

The Welsh government said there were "clear positives" in the statistics.

Business Minister Edwina Hart said Wales had closed the GVA gap with the UK, but not enough to change its relative position.

Image caption Crunch Christmas sees the BBC examining the state of the economy

"That's because the reasons behind these GVA figures are long term structural weaknesses in the Welsh economy and why government must take a long term view in its policies," she said.

"The labour market figures give us a much more up to date picture of what is happening in people's lives today - in our Welsh businesses today - not two years ago.

"And here we want to take immediate action to address some of the very real difficulties people are facing."

Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan said the economy was enjoying "mixed fortunes".

It underlined the importance of ministers in Cardiff and Westminster working together, she said.

She said: "More than ever, now is the time for delivery and results and the people of Wales will want to see less talking and more action, to ensure that Wales is ahead of the game with growth and jobs."

Conservatives in the assembly said 12 years of Labour had failed to lift Wales from the bottom of the UK's prosperity league table.

Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott said the Welsh government was "weak and short-sighted", and had a "lack of ambition".

Plaid Cymru economy spokesman Alun Ffred Jones blamed the Welsh government's "disastrous handling of the effects of the economic crisis", and said the UK government was cutting public spending "too deep and too fast".

But Labour MP Nia Griffith said rising unemployment was "a direct result of the catastrophic policies being pursued by the Tory-led UK government".

The figures were published as it was announced up to 250 jobs are to be created in south Wales with the opening of a new £7m renewable energy training centre.

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Media captionMusic graduate James Thomas reflects on his struggle to find work after leaving university.

The Swalec Smart Energy Centre in Treforest, Rhondda Cynon Taf, will receive £2m in Welsh government funds.

Meanwhile, travel group Thomas Cook announced it is closing three branches in Wales in addition to the planned closure of a branch in Bangor.

The branches to close are the Co-op travel store within Morrison's in Cardiff Bay, the Going Places shop in Wrexham and its Co-op agency in Newport's Llanarth Street.

It is part of a cutback of their office network. planned over the next two years.

In the previous 24 hours it was revealed that 77 jobs are at risk with the planned closures of three regional DVLA offices in Wales under plans to centralise operations at its Swansea headquarters.

A further 36 job losses were announced by Norgine Pharmaceuticals Limited in Hengoed, Caerphilly county.

Meanwhile, figures revealed the number of staff working for the Welsh government declined by 190 between the second and third quarters of this year.

The workforce stands at 5,280.

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