I am pleased to hear that unemployment figures for September which stand at 1,178 unemployment claimants have gone down again for North East Hertfordshire. The figure represents a rate of 2.4% of the economically active population aged 16 to 64, the 485th highest of the 650 UK constituencies and a drop by 176 compared to the figures for September last year. Furthermore this September’s figures are also 26 lower than for those in August which is even more encouraging. We keep hearing good news about the economy in the news and clearly this is being reflected in unemployment claimant levels, particularly in my constituency.
It is great news that we have managed to avoid a triple-dip recession and the economy has risen by 0.3% in the last quarter. Obviously we have far to go to regain economic prosperity but the figures released by the ONS yesterday show we are at least heading in the right direction. Significantly according to the ONS, the biggest contribution to this rise came from the service sector followed by that of the production industries.
Closer to home I was pleased to see that unemployment in the constituency has also gone down, with a decrease of JSA claimants by 41 to 1,458 for March 2013 in comparison to 1,499 for February 2013. This is extremely encouraging and I hope that both of these announcements are indicative of the positive results of the austerity measures which the Government has been pursuing in order to address the outstanding deficit.
So far, the deficit is down by a third, businesses have created over a million and a quarter new jobs, and interest rates are at record lows. Long may this good news continue…
It is a hopeful sign that unemployment figures have gone down, according to figures released yesterday by the Office of National Statistics. The figures show that the ILO measure of unemployment fell to 2.65 million in the period December – February 2012 which is a decrease of 35,000 from the last quarter and locally in North East Hertfordshire constituency 25 lower than last month, February 2012 . David Cameron referred to the national drop in unemployment in Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday and I think we should be pleased with this drop when unemployment had risen last month. Thankfully North East Herts still retains a high level of employment which is listed as 71.3% for the year end to September 2011. The number of unemployed claimants in North East Hertfordshire constituency in March 2012 was 1,433. This represents a rate of 3.0% of the economically active population aged 16 to 64, one of the lowest rates in the UK.
Elsewhere, the construction sector output has experienced 6.1% growth month on month in February which is equally as encouraging, especially when compared to the 12.0% month on month decline that the sector experienced last January. I do hope that other sectors enjoy similar levels of growth in the months going forward especially when the UK has so much to look forward to in other directions with the start of the Olympics, due in the summer.
Today’s figures on youth unemployment are shocking. Almost 1 million young people are looking for work in the UK. This is much higher than in 1998. Our young people should not become strangers to the World of Work. The loss they suffer is not just the lack of money from wages, but also the sapping of morale and aspiration.
Locally youth unemployment is almost double what it was a year ago. Conservatives propose to reward small and medium sized businesses for taking on new employees and to improve the quality and number of apprenticeships. We need a stronger response to the recession too with a sound approach to public spending and an effective loan guarantee scheme to help business survive. Let’s hope we have a better year in 2010.
At my meeting with local businesses last Friday Barclays gave a presentation on the local economic scene highlighting a modest revival with new business lending up. There are also signs of some improvement in the construction industry.
Today I am in Glasgow with the Work and Pensions Select Committee examining the effectiveness of Welfare to Work programmes in big cities. Clearly this is a big challenge in the current climate.
I was shocked to hear from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) that 2000 apprentices have been “displaced” i.e. lost their jobs and thus their training. Imagine the national outrage if a university with 2000 students lost their courses. CITB have done well to place about 40 per cent of the apprentices, but you do have to ask if Government should not have a scheme to enable displaced apprentices to at least finish their training regardless. I have suggested this and will continue to press the case.
I have been shocked at allegations that recruitment companies employed by Government have been defrauding the system by forging signatures to show that work has been done when it has not. These allegations need to be investigated by the National Audit Office and those found to have misbehaved should not have Government contracts. I agree with the tough line of our Work and Pensions’ Select Committee Chairman Terry Rooney. Well done Terry!
The Office of National Statistics Labour market stats are out today. Despite the Government-funded Economic and Social Reform Council’s report earlier last week saying that we were out of recession, today’s outlook is very concerning. Official figures show that unemployment has hit 2.26m and that the jobless rate has risen to 7.2% – the highest since July 1997. This means that the last few months have seen the biggest fall in employment on record.
Even more worrying is that the unemployment rate for 18-24 year olds is now at 16.6%. Unemployment is a scourge for young people. To have young people, with their hopes for the future, unable to find work and even facing the prospect of long-term unemployment, is bad news for Britain. We want better Government help for apprentices so that they can continue their training even they lose their jobs. We must also find opportunities for them to work so that their newly acquired skills do not get rusty.
What the Budget must do above all is to explain how Britain will get back onto a stable financial footing in the medium term – in short, how to reduce the massive Government borrowing to a manageable level by no later than 2015. Let’s hope we do not get another disappointment like the pointless 2.5 per cent VAT cut we had in the Chancellor’s mini-budget in November. I expect they will try to put off the tough decisions until after the General Election.
Conservatives are still calling for more help for businesses and more skills training. Companies need to be able to borrow money responsibly and the Government has still not implemented a proper Business Loan Guarantee Scheme as Conservatives have urged right from the start. Job losses have a direct impact on training for the future, many apprentices now face the sack. We cannot afford to lose these skills for the future. The Government must come up with a package to help young people obtain the skills they will need and to help the apprentices, as Conservatives have pledged. We need to improve job skills during the recession so that our labour force is ready and able to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.
The April CBI Skills’ survey is a Wake up call to Government pointing to a lack of quality in their flagship “Train to Gain” programme, which should be making more of an impact on businesses. In the House of Commons I raise regularly the need for the right quality of training and support.
Local employers tell me how vital it is to use the recession to train our workforce, because the jobs of the future will require higher levels of skill. This is true for those both in and out of work. Employers want more out of staff training during the recession to help their businesses survive.
The April CBI/Nord Anglia education and skills survey, ‘Emerging stronger: the value of education and skills in turbulent times’, shows that in response to the recession, over half of employers (51%) say that they want to target their training more effectively to “ensure they are better placed for an upturn when it comes.” (CBI’s Director-General, Richard Lambert)
42% of employers using Train to Gain say it has delivered ‘no impact’ for their business, and three-quarters rated its training brokerage service as ‘poor’ or at best ‘mixed’. While Employers support the principles behind Train to Gain – skills advice and access to funding for their staff on nationally accredited training courses – it is clearly not delivering.
Recent government figures on the performance of Train to Gain show the biggest increases in employer demand was for Level 3 training. This brings me back to the point I have made regularly in the House of Commons, that quality of training is vital. Apprenticeships used to be at Level 3, but many have been downgraded by Government to Level 2. Yet, it is the Level 3 qualifications which reduce job risk and bring higher pay.
So, the message to Government is -Wake up and raise the quality of training and “Train to Gain”.