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Wales sees largest rise in unemployment

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Wales has seen the largest quarterly rise in unemployment across the UK, according today’s Office for National Statistics figures.

During the period for July to September, unemployment rose by 4.6%, representing an increase of 28,000 compared with April to June.

The UK’s unemployment rate was 4.8%, however the figures do not include those on the Government’s furlough scheme, who are counted as employed.

Commenting on today’s Labour Market Statistics, Welsh Government Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates said:

“These latest statistics clearly show the damaging impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on people across Wales.

“As a Welsh Government we are continuing to do all that we can to protect our businesses, our people and our economy during these difficult days. Our comprehensive package of business support, now worth more than £1.7bn, provides Welsh companies with access to the most generous offer of help anywhere in the UK. As part of this, we recently launched the third phase of our Economic Resilience Fund worth nearly £300m so more businesses could be supported through the firebreak and beyond.

“Our Economic Resilience Fund has already been crucial in helping more than 13,000 diverse businesses across Wales and has protected in excess of 100,000 jobs that might others wise have been lost in companies such as Sony in Bridgend, Anglesey-based Joloda Hydraroll and St Asaph company TRB Limited.

“We know businesses face continued pressures and need further assistance and we are continuing to explore further options for supporting firms through the pandemic and helping them prepare for life after the EU transition period has ended.

“We are also determined to keep on with our work to drive up skills levels across Wales and will be announcing plans to support the creation of new apprenticeship opportunities later this week as part of our £40m Covid commitment. Our dedicated Working Wales service is available as well to provide advice and guidance and referral to free skills and training support to people who have been made redundant or are at risk of losing their job.”

Ian Price, CBI Wales Director, said:

“The latest figures from the ONS show a substantial increase in unemployment in Wales across the quarter to September, and at a faster pace than in the rest of the UK.

“The figures make for worrying reading for Welsh businesses, and, just a day on from the end of firebreak measures, provide a reminder that jobs and firms remain at significant risk.

“The next few months will be crucial. Making sure that the UK and Welsh governments work together effectively, in partnership with business, to support firms under pressure will be key. Rolling out mass testing remains a priority, as is investment in job-creating projects – with a focus on digital skills and green jobs.”

Commenting on the UK unemployment figures, Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Chair, said:

“The UK unemployment figures make for troubling reading today.

“We were concerned about the impact of the end of the furlough scheme in October, and now that this deadline has been moved back to March the cliff edge has been temporarily moved for many firms, but there are still myriad challenges for Wales’ businesses.

“We have only just emerged from the firebreak and businesses face an incredibly uncertain winter. Many firms had already made redundancies in anticipation of the end of the furlough scheme in October, and many more face incredibly difficult decisions in the coming months.

“Ken Skates MS has signalled his intention for there to be a fourth round of funding under the Economic Resilience Fund in the new year, and we would urge Welsh Government to bring forward details of that at the earliest possible opportunity to ensure that this Fund meets business need and allow businesses to plan. Our national focus for the economy should be on how to keep firms viable as we navigate the winter.

“The UK self-employed community has also taken a huge hit – the self-employed community is down half a million people on this time a year ago. FSB Wales has called on UK and Welsh Government to work together to provide support to our self-employed community in order to ensure that they are still viable and functioning into 2021.

“Finally, it’s important to note that we all have a role in protecting jobs in Wales. Two thirds of private sector jobs are with SMEs – if we all think about where we buy goods and services in the next few months and look for opportunities to support the businesses that are an integral part of our community then we will be keeping businesses and the jobs that they create viable through the winter.”