The Office for National Statistics has released long-term figures on unemployment and the number of people claiming unemployment benefit, which show that Blaenau Gwent has one of the highest Job Seeker’s Allowance claimant rates in the UK.
On average 5.4% of people aged 16-64 in Blaenau Gwent were claiming unemployment benefit between 2005 and 2011. This places the local authority within UK’s top ten for claimant rates, only behind places such as Kingston upon Hull and Hackney in London. That rate increased to a peak of 8.0% at the start of 2009, and – even with rates falling across Wales and the UK as a whole in recent months – was at 6.8% in June 2011, still the highest in Wales.
Neighbouring local authorities in the South Wales Valleys also had higher-than-average claimant rates for the majority of months over the six-and-a-half-year spell we now have figures for.
By contrast, Ceridigion has consistently had claimant rates of less than 2%, and has the lowest proportion of Job Seeker’s Allowance claimants in June 2011, displaying a pattern where local authorities with relatively high employment maintain that position compared to their neighbours as the economy fluctuates over time, and vice-versa.
Statistics on unemployment rates from 1992 through to 2011, broken down by region within the UK, have also been released. Across the period, Wales has had a higher rate of joblessness than England – which heavily influences the UK’s overall average – but a lower rate than Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The figures show four distinct periods, in terms of the relationship between Wales’ unemployment rates and the UK average. Between 1992 and 1994, Wales had a lower proportion of unemployed people than the UK as a whole. For the next eight years, the opposite was true, as Wales struggled to keep pace with gradually declining jobless figures across the UK. Between 2002 and 2008, Wales again had a lower level of unemployment, before overtaking the UK average in the last three years.