Unemployment Figures Fall to Lowest Level for 33 Years; Jobs Statistics Offer Rare Ray of Sunshine in Economic Gloom

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Byline: Aled Blake Business Correspondent

UNEMPLOYMENT levels in Wales have fallen with the number of people in work reaching a new high, official figures showed yesterday.

The numbers on unemployment benefit in Wales are at their lowest level for 33 years.

Labour Market Statistics released by the Office for National Statistics show that the number of people on unemployment benefit is down by 3,700 since January 2007 to 38,500 - a fall of 8.8%.

In the last quarter of 2007, the number of unemployed people in Wales stood at 72,000 which is a fall of 4,000 on the previous quarter, and a reduction of 5.1%.

Across the UK, the number of people claiming JobSeeker's Allowance fell by 10,800 in January to 794,600, also the lowest total since the summer of 1975. It was the 16th consecutive monthly reduction.

Unemployment, including people not eligible for benefit, fell by 61,000 in the quarter to December to 1.61 million, the lowest for almost two years.

The number of people classed as economically inactive, including those looking after a sick relative, on early retirement or who have given up looking for a job, also fell in the latest quarter - by 54,000 to reach 7.92 million.

But the total is still 51,000 higher than a year ago and represents 21% of the working population, according to the data.

Around 111,000 workers were made redundant in the latest quarter, the lowest figure since comparable records began in 1995, and 24,000 down on the previous three months.

Leighton Jenkins, assistant director of policy at CBI Wales, said, "While the headlines are full of doom and gloom about the UK's growth prospects, it's good to see Wales performing well in employment terms.

"The figures for the last quarter of last year show a 5.1% percentage reduction in unemployment in Wales. We've seen strong growth in construction, retail and services last year, which may be providing the increased employment, but we still remain concerned over the prospects for our manufacturers, who continue to bear the brunt of price inflation on raw materials and the low dollar. …