The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the South West has hit 189,842 – a 151% increase on the same period last year.
The figures, released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), show that 33,454 of those claimants are aged between 18 and 24, which is up 184% on a year earlier.
In Plymouth, the alternative claimant count for August 2020 stood at 11,403, a 98% rise in a year, and in Exeter it was 3,924, which is up 172%.
Torbay has seen a 143% increase to 6,402, and Cornwall has experienced a 156% rise to 22,750. The alternative claimant count includes people claiming Universal Credit and Jobseekers’ Allowance.
It is thought the coronavirus pandemic, and subsequent lockdown, are responsible for much of the increase, with the winding down of the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, whereby workers have been placed on furlough, also being a factor.
Nationally the unemployment rate rose to 4.1% in the three months to July – 0.3% higher than the year previously, according to latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Over the quarter, young people without a job rose to 156,000, while the number of employees in the UK on payrolls was down around 695,000 compared with March, when the Covid-19 lockdown began.
However, there was a rise in job vacancies over the period, driven by smaller businesses, according to the ONS, which said some were taking on additional staff to meet coronavirus guidelines.
And in Devon and Cornwall, the DWP stressed there are jobs that need filling including for work coaches in Jobcentres.
The Government has pledged there will be 27,000 work coaches in the UK by next March, trained to make sure people have the support they need to get back into work.
The DWP will employ another 4,500 work coaches nationally by October, with a further 9,000 taken on by March 2021, to add to the existing 13,500.
The work coaches will deliver new flagship programmes, such as the £2billion Kickstart scheme which puts young people receiving benefits first in line for new six-month roles provided by employers. It is hoped Kickstart will create hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people across the country.
In Plymouth, the SWP has organised several Sector Based Work Academies, to provide job-hunters with skills for specific industries.
These will aim to find suitable candidates for jobs with the Royal Mail and its Manuel Data Entry Centre (MDEC), and also for the city’s new Amazon warehouse, various care firms and Livewell South West.
There will also be a work academy for civil service jobs, and for admin staff at Shift, the fast-growing “Uber for removals” firm based at the Royal William Yard.
The DWP is also running a virtual event for veterans and another event for prison leavers. There are 14 internships within DWP in the city for care leavers. It is also working closely with Plymouth City Council and there is a new, online skills launch pad focusing on the 16-24 age group.
Business Live’s South West Business Reporter is William Telford.
He is based in Plymouth but covers the entire region.
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Phone: 01752 293116
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William has more than a decade’s experience reporting on the business scene in Plymouth and the South West.
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DWP bosses also highlighted the 350 jobs being created at Appledore Shipyard and that South West financial experts Old Mill has welcomed 17 new starters this week as the business continues to expand. With offices in Exeter, Melksham, Wells and Yeovil, the company has been recruiting school leavers and graduates.
Joanne Harris, Jobcentre customer services manager in North Devon, said: “We are doing everything we can to help and support people into some sort of work, whether with training or whatever is necessary.”
Minister for Employment Mims Davies MP said: “We recognise that the pandemic has been difficult for many people who are worried about their incomes and that’s why our £30billion Plan for Jobs is aimed at protecting, supporting and creating jobs and it’s welcome news that there is some recovery in vacancies.
“Meanwhile, we’re creating hundreds of thousands of fully subsidised new jobs for young people through our £2billion Kickstart Scheme to give those starting out a leg up onto the career ladder and offer them hope for the future. And within our Jobcentres we’re recruiting a further 13,500 Work Coaches so all jobseekers throughout the UK have access to tailored support, to build their skills and pivot into new roles.”
Minister for Welfare Delivery Will Quince said: “Now, we are doubling the number of work coaches to ensure that everyone gets the individual tailored support that they need. This is a key part of our Plan for Jobs, designed to get Britain back into work safely.”