Wales

Unemployment figures down for second month in a row

Unemployment in Wales has fallen for the second consecutive month.

The number of people out of work between October and December last year fell by 3,000 to 134,000.

The previous three-month figure from the Office for National Statistics showed a slight drop of 1,000.

But unemployment was 12,000 higher than the same time in 2010 and Wales' unemployment rate of 9% remains above the UK average.

The number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance in January was 79,100 - up 1,300 on the previous month.

For the UK as a whole, unemployment rose by 48,000 to 2.67 million, taking the unemployment rate to 8.4%.

'Encouraging'

Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan said: "Whilst the unemployment rate remains unacceptably high at 9.0%, we are seeing some encouraging signs that things are improving.

"We do need to recognise however, that recovery from the worst deficit in peace-time history takes time."

The Welsh government has criticised the economic policies of the UK government, but Mrs Gillan said she hoped the two administrations could work together.

Business Minister Edwina Hart said: "On the key measures of unemployment and employment there is cause for some optimism, and the economic inactivity rate in Wales is the lowest since comparable records began in 1992 .

"We hope this is an indication that Welsh government policies are having a beneficial effect during these difficult times."

Experts say Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil and Caerphilly are among the worst affected areas in the UK.

Clare McNeil, a senior research fellow for the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), said they had a worrying combination of having both the highest unemployment levels and the lowest number of job vacancies.

"Many of these areas are of course areas that were reliant on the public sector for jobs and we know that there's been a big contraction in the public sector and jobs will be lost over the next few years," she added.

She said long-term unemployment among young people was of particular concern.

"We do know that long-term unemployment is high and is of course rising and the concern there is that once you have been out of work for more than a year, it can have what we call a scarring effect," she said.

The Prince of Wales will announce on Wednesday a new team of between eight and 10 "job ambassadors" who have been through the Prince's Trust programmes to try to help other young people into work.

Rick Libbey, director of the Prince's Trust Cymru, said they hoped each ambassador would reach out to around 1,000 of the "hardest-to-reach" young people in a year to help find them jobs and opportunities in businesses.

Meanwhile, the Alacrity project in Newport, which was set up by Sir Terry Matthews and Simon Gibson, is aiming to develop entrepreneurs of the future.

Mr Gibson said: "We need jobs in the economy, that's obvious. But one thing we also need is more companies to create them.

"And that's what we're doing at Alacrity. We're trying to get the brightest and best graduates and train them up so that they can be entrepreneurs and start their own companies."

Skills shortage

He added that they were noticing a skills shortage, which if addressed could help more people get a job.

"There's still a deficit in engineering and there's still a deficit in computer science," he said.

The unemployment figures come after a day of good news for Cardiff. US-based company DRIAS Transnat Ltd, which provides services for insurance companies, announced it hopes to create up to 50 jobs after choosing the capital as its first European base.

But a car parts manufacturer in Welshpool, Powys, Shimizu Industry UK (SI-UK), warned it may have to lay off staff. It employs more than 170 people and has a turnover of about £17m.

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