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Action required as unemployment rises again

Businesses, key stakeholders and training providers must work together to get the West Midlands back on track after the region suffered another rise in unemployment, business leaders said today.

New figures revealed a 0.6 per cent increase in West Midlands unemployment from May to July, while employment was down by 1.1 per cent. Furthermore, the inactivity rate crept up by 0.6 per cent.

Although the unemployment rate estimate has decreased from a year ago, the West Midlands still ranks second highest in the UK behind the North East.

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce says the region must refocus its efforts on tackling persisting skills gaps.

Chief executive Paul Faulkner said: “It is disappointing to see that the West Midlands has lost pace after the significant increases seen in regional employment  over the spring and summer of this year.

“The region is in a better place than we were this time last year; more local people are in jobs, with fewer unemployed and economically inactive.

“However, the decreases in local employment which we have seen over the last few months are concerning.

“Persisting skills gaps are still troubling businesses, as evidenced in our latest quarterly business report.

“It is incredibly important that businesses, stakeholders and training providers can get back on track working together to boost workforce jobs in the region and ensure local residents are enabled to access meaningful work.”

With ongoing Brexit uncertainty and a rise in average weekly earnings, data from the Chamber’s Quarterly Business Report reveals many firms are experiencing price pressure difficulties.

Mr Faulkner added: “As the ONS reports a further rise in average weekly earnings – the highest seen since November 2008 – our latest Quarterly Business Report also shows that Greater Birmingham businesses are experiencing disconcerting price pressures, with many citing pay settlements as the predominant reason for this.

“The value of the pound has just fallen once again following Theresa May’s decision to postpone the parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal – something which will make importing goods all the more expensive - and the start of the New Year will be an uncertain time for local employers.

“It is crucial that in such times of uncertainty, these businesses can rely on the skilled talent they need to thrive.

“Firms concerned about Brexit are advised to complete the Chambers’ free Brexit Business Health Check for a personalised report on how Brexit may affect your business.”

The GBCC’s Brexit Business Health Check can be found here.

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