Finger on the Pulse to Prepare for the Future; Interim Director of Working Links Dave Evans on the Complex Employment Picture in Wales
RECENT employment statistics for Wales show some progress being made in getting people back to work but they also show there is much more to do.
The figures up to February indicated that about 3,000 more people were in employment in Wales compared to a year earlier and this was the first positive sign in many months.
But the picture is not uniformly positive. The February statistics also showed the economic inactivity rate for Wales was up 0.1% while the UK average had dropped 0.7% across the same period of a year.
Indeed, the recession has hit parts of Wales disproportionately and created real differences and complexities in the labour market here.
This month's employment figures were therefore awaited with trepidation. Would they signal recent improved figures were a blip or a trend? The good news for Wales is that they showed a further strengthening of the Welsh economy.
The employment rate for those aged 16-64 in Wales was 69.5%, up 1.4% from the same period last year, while the number of economically inactive people in Wales dropped by 0.8%. Both these percentage improvements were better than for the UK as a whole.
That's not to say that the Welsh economy is booming, but rather there are promising signs of recovery.
In the past month alone outsourcer Serco, insurance giant Admiral and clinical research firm PRA all invested in Wales, creating hundreds of jobs.
Car magnate Ford also invested to safeguard 2,300 jobs. And the latest vacancy statistics show that there are approximately 3,000 more jobs advertised across Wales every month than a year previously.
But it's clear there are significant complexities in the labour market for Wales as it emerges from recession compared to the economic situation when this long period of downturn began. For example, there are marked differences in the number of men and women who are economically inactive and unemployed in Wales. But part of that is explained by this rise in the number of part-time jobs available.
It's our job to be on top of labour market trends to help people get into work. We've been working with the Bevan Foundation to examine trends across the South Wales Valleys, considering why employers choose flexible workers and identifying specific actions that can be taken to ensure this flexibility can benefit the country.
Our joint report calls for extra support to be given to new recruits to help them stay in work, progress and earn more money. We also need to maximise the employability of people entering low-skilled and flexible employment, helping them develop their skills for such a marketplace. …