In his downbeat assessment of future trends for the British economy (November 13), the Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, foresaw the nation’s economy following a “zigzag pattern”. He might well have been talking specifically about the nation’s and our constituency’s unemployment levels.
The November figures showed a national decrease in the total number those out of work and an increase in those claiming Jobseekers allowance (JSA.) They showed an increase in those in work of 100,000, but half those were part-time jobs.
The third quarter figures published this week include the August/September jobs generated by the Olympic Games. The longer term trend and the next of Sir Mervyn’s zigzags is proving difficult for the experts to gauge.
Unemployment in the Devizes constituency is very low by national standards. And the figures obviously do not reflect the ups and downs of the Olympic impact.
The statistics for the constituency show a very small decrease in JSA claimants and a very slight increase in those claiming for more than twelve months – the definition for the ‘long-term unemployed’. And the claimant level has hardly changed over the past year – it’s risen by only 0.7 per cent.
The constituency has not reflected the national fall in youth unemployment – returning the same figure that was recorded in October’s figures. Nationally unemployment amongst those aged sixteen-to-twenty-four stands at almost 21 per cent. In the constituency the main fall in the number of claimants was in the fifty-and-over age group.
These are the last figures for JSA claimants by age group for the constituency to be published in this format. A new format will start soon – whether this is because of or despite the coalition government’s policy of greater transparency remains to be seen.
However the Devizes figures do show a substantial drop in Jobcentre Plus vacancies: from 486 in August, to 356 in September and now to 285 in October. How long this trend will continue is vital to the area’s future prospects.
And nationally prospects for High Street spending do not look good. During the quarter (July-August-September) average weekly total pay (including bonuses) rose by 1.8 per cent – and this week we learned too that inflation was back to 2.7 per cent with another rise from energy price increases almost guaranteed.