Article published: Thursday, December 8th 2011
Unemployment in Greater Manchester has risen by 13.5 per cent in the last year while the number of young people claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) climbed to unprecedented levels seen during the recession, according to the latest figures from the Commission for the New Economy.
In a grim sign of a hardening labour market the number of long-term unemployed passed 32,000, an increase of 27.6 per cent throughout the year. The total number of people on JSA in October 2011 was over 82,000, compared to just 24,196 vacancies in Greater Manchester according to the report – more than three applicants for every position.
Women were particularly hard hit, with female JSA claimants rising by 29.7 per cent compared to an increase in male claimants of 7.2 per cent between October 2010 and October 2011. Despite government efforts to move large numbers of groups such as the disabled off other benefits including incapacity benefit and onto the cheaper JSA rate the total number of benefit claimants in Greater Manchester remained stable at 316,000, decreasing by just 0.8 per cent over the past year.
Youth unemployment in the city region was higher on average than the rest of the country, with a quarter of all job seeking youths on the dole for more than six months. People aged 16 – 24 made up two thirds of the extra 7,000 JSA claimants since January.
The report argued the government’s new £1 billion Youth Contract programme set to come into force in April and seen by many as a U-turn following the scrapping of the Future Jobs Fund made for “welcome reading”, although it warned that forecasts for worsening unemployment as the economy plummets meant 2012 would be “just as challenging as 2011”.
While retail rents were “subdued” those for offices and industry remained “fairly steady”, perhaps offering slight relief to many in the city’s business establishment who are hoping to make some cash from commercial property markets. Flights at Manchester airport and hotel occupancy rates even increased from last year, with the number of visitors staying overnight the highest since reporting began in 2000.
The people of Manchester did not seem to reap the benefits, however. As revealed last week in MULE incomes for those in work fell, with slight average wage increases for full time employees who live and work in the city region more than wiped out by over 5 per cent inflation. Only in Trafford did residents earn higher than the national average, with Greater Manchester as a whole earning 8.6 per cent less than the country as a whole.
More misery was confirmed on the housing front, with the number of new homes built standing at 77 per cent less than the peak of just under 14,000 in 2007/08 – one of only two years in the last ten in which more than the needed 10,000 homes per year to keep up with local demand were built. A frozen housing market since the 2007 crash and house prices still stuck well above their pre-bubble figure suggest prices have a long way yet to fall – not quite an enticing prospect for property developers with a need to turn a profit.
Despite the gloom the press statement for this report tried to end on a positive note, hailing the rather small regional growth fund and cash for various broadband and transport projects as some “good news” for the area. Yet there is reason to be sceptical that handouts for business will do much good for any recovery while the wages of those ‘fortunate’ enough to work for them and buy their products remain shredded and the government’s ongoing cuts to public spending are extended to 2017 and deepened by £15 billion. As even the report’s authors admitted, the expectation all round is that things will get much worse before they get any better.
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