Number of Job Seekers Soars; BEATING THE CREDIT CRUNCH: As More People Take to Hunting for Work, Clare Hutchinson Examines Their Hopes of Landing Employment CRUNCH BUSTERS

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THE number of people looking for work in South Wales is rising rapidly while job vacancies are plummeting.

Recruitment agencies and job centres across Cardiff, Bridgend and Merthyr are struggling to cope with a new year surge in the number of people hunting for jobs, it has emerged.

But permanent vacancies in the construction industry, factories and warehouses are becoming increasingly rare and workers are having to make do with temporary employment.

Latest figures from Jobcentre Plus show that in Cardiff there were 803 more people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance than there were jobs in November 2008. In Bridgend, there were 1,204 and in Merthyr 1,146.

In the Cardiff branch of Jobcentre Plus, 600 jobs were available. There were more than 100 retail jobs advertised, but only 33 in construction and just 16 in factories.

Alex Atherton, 20, of Grangetown, Cardiff, was at the centre with his mum looking for labouring work.

He said: "This is the first time I've come here. It'sbeen moredifficult to find jobs since the credit crunch; even if you have experience you can't get a job."

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said that in Cardiff the St David's 2 centre created a boom in opportunities for skilled labourers. But when work is completed and the centreopens later this year, the jobs market in South Wales will be flooded withmore labourers looking for work.

Careers Wales Cardiff and Vale, which helps 16 and 17-year-olds in the area find employment, said: "Between April and November last year we saw a decrease of 25% in the number of vacancies notified to us from local employers.

"In general we're finding that young people under 18 are experiencing more difficulty in obtaining work and are being made redundant."

Bridgend's Jobcentre Plus was showing the strain yesterday, with everycomputer terminal in use by jobseekers.

But only 22 new jobs were posted that day, with 92 advertised in the past week.

The most common vacancies were in call centres, with nine such positions advertised in the past two weeks.

Salaries ranged from minimum wage to pounds 23,000 - forastore manager at a new fashion clothing store due to open soon in Bridgend town centre. A DWPspokeswoman said the centre had taken on two new permanent staff and four temporary advisers.

At Jobcentre Plus in Merthyr Tydfil, which covers Merthyr and Aberdare, six extra advisers have been taken on.

An area manager's job in fashion retail, available yesterday in Merthyr, offered up to pounds 30,000 a year while an assistant cook at a care home working 20 to 30 hours would earn pounds 6. …