Wales politics

Unemployment rises by 1,000 in Wales over quarter

Unemployment rose slightly in Wales by 1,000 in the three months to the end of February, with women bearing the brunt of the increase, according to official figures.

The number of women out of work during the period rose by 4,000.

The number of unemployed men fell by 3,000 in the same quarter, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The ONS said 131,000 people (8.9%) were unemployed - an increase of 5.3% on the same time the previous year.

Unemployment has gone up by 7,000 over the year.

The number of people claiming jobseekers allowance also increased. The claimant count was 80,300 in March - up 600 on February and 9,100 on March 2011.

It is the second month in a row that the ONS has said quarterly unemployment rose by 1,000.

Across the UK unemployment fell by 35,000 to 2.65 million, but the claimant count rose to 1.61 million - its highest since October 2009.

Despite a "weak" UK labour market, the Welsh government said there were some "encouraging signs", including an increase in employment.

The number of people in work rose 15,000 to 1.35 million.

A simultaneous rise in employment and unemployment could be due to welfare changes introduced by the UK coalition government, particularly phasing out incapacity benefit.

Even if jobs are being created, more people are also being moved off long-term benefits onto jobseekers allowance.

The Welsh government said the proportion of 16 to 64-year-olds classed as economically inactive, which dipped below 25%, was approaching a record low.

Business Minister Edwina Hart said: "While employment in Wales was up 9,000 over the previous year and up 15,000 over the previous quarter, we remain determined to create the conditions necessary to create more jobs, boost economic growth and increase confidence in the Welsh economy."

'Promising news'

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said: "The fact that employment and economic activity levels in Wales have continued their upward trend for the fourth consecutive month is indeed very promising news.

"There is evidently still much to do, but there is a raft of measures in place to tackle the issues at hand, as well as helping to boost growth opportunities across the nation."

Plaid Cymru said the figures were a "worrying sign" that the economy was not improving.

Plaid AM Alun Ffred Jones said: "In the last year Wales has suffered a massive loss of jobs - over 5% - yet neither the Labour Welsh government nor the Tory-Lib Dem UK government is doing what's needed to help."

Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott said raising the threshold at which people pay income tax would protect women on low incomes.

"The figures are not great and unfortunately this kind of economic crisis disproportionately affects women due to the types of employment that women are engaged in," she said.

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