The fall in the number of people receiving unemployment benefit last month could well be another one of those green shoots (the latest economic data published yesterday is available on the Local Economic Monitor).
The September 2009 data showed that the total number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) across England fell by 4,700 compared with August 2009. Although only a small fall – those 4,700 people represent less than half a percent of the 1.3 million people now receiving unemployment benefit – this is more good news to add to the relatively small increases over the last six months. The three-month June-Sept increase of 2.4% and six-month March-Sept increase of 4.4% are certainly a good deal better than the 62% increase over the six-months from Sept 2008-March 2009.
There are other causes for optimism. The ILO unemployment estimates published yesterday showed a fall in the June-July monthly estimates, and a less-than-expected-rise in the June-August quarterly data. And Google has declared the worst of the recession is over, with net revenue up 7% and profits up 27% over the third quarter. However, there is a long way to go. Youth and long-term unemployment continue to rise, and across England, there are still two-thirds more people getting unemployment benefit than 12 months ago.
At regional and local level, the picture is also looking more positive. Data on the Local Economic Monitor identifies that 223 of the 326 Local Authorities in England recorded a decrease in the number of JSA claimants over the most recent period, with falls across most of the regions.
At regional level, only London and the West Midlands recorded a rise in claimant numbers over the period, see figure. Unemployment rates are particularly high in the West Midlands: four of the six local authorities with the highest rates of unemployment in England are now in the Greater Birmingham/Black country area. Based on the September 2009 figures, Wolverhampton has the highest proportion of people receiving JSA, with 8.2% of the working age population in receipt of JSA. Birmingham (8.2%), Sandwell (7.9%) and Walsall (7.4%) are also among the top six areas in England with the highest proportion of adults claiming JSA. The unemployment rate has risen significantly in these areas, with an additional 1,700 JSA claimants recorded in these four areas in the last month alone.
Stefan Noble and Tom Smith (OCSI).