West Midlands unemployment now highest of all regions

Office for National Statistics logoLatest data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that unemployment has increased to 8.4 per cent in the West Midlands – higher than any other English region – as 36,000 more people became unemployed in the quarter from November 2008 to February 2009.

The unemployment rate has now increased by 2.4 percentage points on the same period last year, and 1.4 percentage points on the previous quarter. Employment has declined by 2.8 percentage points in the year February 2008 to February 2009 and is declining at a rate almost three times the national rate of 1.0 percentage points.

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More likely to die or retire than work again

After two years claiming incapacity benefit, a person is more likely to die or retire than work again, according to research highlighted in a recent report by the West Midlands Regional Observatory.

The Economic Inclusion Baseline Report for the West Midlands (pdf, 1.06mb), shows the facts behind what has become a significant problem for the region.

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West Midlands unemployment rate up significantly

Peter Mandelson and West Midlands TaskforceLatest data released by the Office for National Statistics point to a significant worsening of regional unemployment rate. This is the preferred measure of unemployment as it measures the percentage of those who are economically active but unable to find employment.

The last quarter of 2008 saw the estimated rate of unemployment rise by 1.2 percentage points to 7.7%, taking the annual change up to 1.9 percentage points from 5.8% quarter 4 2007.

The increase is due to an additional 34,000 people becoming economically active but employment growth was virtually static.

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Jobseekers allowance claimant statistics give cause for concern in Birmingham

Four of Birmingham’s parliamentary constituencies are listed amongst the five worst in the UK in terms of the proportion of the resident working-age population claiming Jobseekers allowance, according to figures for December 2008 released by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The constituencies are Birmingham Ladywood (9.9% up 1% year-on-year), Birmingham Hodge Hill (8.3% up 1.5%), Birmingham Sparkbrook & Small Heath (8.1% up 0.9%), and Birmingham Erdington (7.4% up 1.8%).

The only constituency listed in the worst five not in Birmingham was Liverpool Walton, with a Jobseekers claimant rate of 7.4%. Wolverhampton South East was listed as having the sixth worst claimant rate of the 660 parliamentary constituencies at 7% (up 1.7%).

The BBC recession tracker provides a map of the UK illustrating these statistics, in which Birmingham can easily be seen as a Jobseekers allowance claimant ‘hot spot’.

Download the full list of statistics for all constituencies (XLS, 86kb).

Changes to benefits system

Employment and Support Allowance - Working for a better lifeImportant changes were made to the benefits system in October 2008 which will have a major impact on claimants of incapacity benefits.

The aim is to simplify the system, and support claimants to return to work in line with the Government’s welfare to work policies and target of 80% employment rate.

Employment and Support Allowance is the new benefit that replaces Incapacity Benefit and Income Support (on incapacity grounds) for new customers from 27 October 2008.

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