Local Enterprise Partnerships need to act to reinvigorate the private sector

Distilling machine CERAM Stoke-on-Tent

Weaknesses in the structure of the West Midlands economy mean that it was hit particularly hard by the recent recession and is likely to see further job losses over the next five years.

Our latest briefing paper (pdf, 408kb), produced as part of our West Midlands Skills Assessment 2010, reveals that the West Midlands has a weaker private sector than other parts of the country. The West Midlands has poorer representation of higher value added activities and high growth firms with the potential to create new, skilled jobs.

As a result the West Midlands has seen its share of jobs in the public sector rise more rapidly than anywhere else in the country. It is particularly vulnerable to job losses from the spending cuts announced by the government.

We forecast that West Midlands Gross Value Added (GVA) will grow by only 8% (£8.8 billion) between 2010 and 2015 and there will be a net fall in employment of more than 38,000 people.

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Endorsement of our Economic Inclusion research

Here’s a short video featuring Trudi Elliott, Chair of the West Midlands Economic Inclusion Panel, endorsing our economic inclusion research:

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What will spending cuts mean for the West Midlands?

Tomorrow sees the long awaited publication of the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review. It will end months of speculation by setting up where the cuts in government spending will fall and how deep they will be. But what might it all mean for the West Midlands?

To try and answer this question, the Observatory has carried out a number of pieces of work over the last few weeks. These are summarised in a new report published today.  Amongst its findings are that:

  • An estimated £43 billion as spent on public services in the West Midlands in 2008-09 and the public sector employed nearly half a million people
  • More than 80,000 public service jobs could be lost in the West Midlands by 2016
  • Up to 300,000 private sector jobs are at risk due to spending cuts, although actual job losses will be lower than that
  • The places which will be hardest hit in the short term are those with concentrations of public sector jobs, such as Birmingham, Bromsgrove, Dudley, Shrewsbury, Stafford, Wolverhampton and Worcester
  • In the longer term, some of these places are likely to recover well, but others will continue to suffer because they have weaker economies. Places most vulnerable in the longer term include Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Stoke-on-Trent, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Wyre Forest (Kidderminster)

The report draws on information from a number of other reports published by the Observatory in recent weeks. These include a briefing paper on the local impact of public sector job cuts, a series of projections based on our Policy Assessment Model and a report identifying locations vulnerable to cuts in public sector spending.

Local impact of public sector job cuts featured on BBC Politics Show

Andy Phillips interviewed for BBC Politics Show

In advance of the government’s spending review announcement on Wednesday 20 October, the BBC Politics Show West Midlands discussed the impact of public sector job losses in the West Midlands.

They interviewed Andy Phillips, Head of Skills Research at the Observatory, and featured our recent briefing paper which examines the local impact of public sector job cuts (pdf, 351kb).

The story is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer for the next six days.

Unemployment in West Midlands levels off

Job Centre PlusThe labour market figures released September 2010 show a mixed picture for the West Midlands, with increases in employment and decreases in unemployment, but evidence of a slowing of the recovery.

The claimant count reduced by just 600 out of 159,700, and the unemployment rate remained steady at 8.4%.

Worryingly, unemployment and the claimant count seem to be levelling off at a higher level than they were prior to the recession. With the impact of cuts in public spending yet to be seen, this could mean any knock-on effects in the form of future rises in unemployment could wipe out the recovery seen so far.

Key headlines

Unemployment in the West Midlands has fallen again, but the rate of decrease is slowing. There are 226,000 unemployed people in the West Midlands – 13,000 fewer than last quarter, and 58,000 fewer than a year ago. However, in order to return to the July 2008 level of 163,000, we would need to reduce the number of people unemployed by a further 63,000.

The number of people in employment rose by 38,000 over the last quarter. However, there are still fewer people in employment than prior to the recession, and those working part-time now make up a greater proportion of those in employment.

The claimant rate saw a very small decrease of just 600 this month.

Overall the indications are that the falls in unemployment are beginning to level off. Furthermore, the upcoming public sector cuts and the knock-on effects in the private sector are likely to result in renewed increases in unemployment.

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West Midlands particularly vulnerable to public sector job cuts

Public sector employment has grown significantly in recent years across the UK and has been the key driver of the economy’s expansion. But proposals announced by the government to make £83bn worth of cuts in public sector spending are forecast to lead to the loss of up to 600,000 public sector jobs across the UK over the next 6 years, according to a study1 by Oxford Economics.

The West Midlands economy is particularly vulnerable to the impact of the cuts. Between 1998 and 2008 (latest available figures), the West Midlands saw the most significant increase in dependence on public sector employment in the country2.

The share of jobs accounted for by the public sector increased from 22% in 1998 to 27% in 2008, a rise of 5 percentage points, bringing total public sector employment to some 637,000.

We forecast that between 2010 and 2016 there will be a net loss of nearly 50,000 jobs across the West Midlands and, based on the ratio of the number of private sector jobs dependent on public sector spending and the associated supply chain nationally, a further 310,000 jobs are at risk at private sector firms directly or indirectly reliant on public sector spending3.

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Unemployment in West Midlands fallen but still not back to pre-recession levels

Updated monthly data on the West Midlands labour market were released today by the Office for National Statistics.

Key headlines

  • Unemployment in the West Midlands has fallen — by 66,000 people over the last year, and 27,000 people in the last quarter. There are, however, 59,000 more unemployed people in the West Midlands than in February 2008.
  • Unemployment has fallen faster in the West Midlands than anywhere else in the country over the last year and in the last quarter. However, unemployment rose more sharply here than elsewhere earlier in the recession, so essentially this is a rebalancing of employment levels.
  • We’re not out of the woods yet. Employment levels have not yet reached their pre-​recession levels, and we’re expecting a significant loss of public sector jobs in the coming months, which could wipe out the recent drop in unemployment altogether.

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