Unemployment Briefing - April 2020.

This article has been kindly given to the SSCA by Philip Atkins OBE, Leader of Staffordshire County Council via e-mail (philip.atkins@staffordshire.gov.uk).

The latest unemployment claimant figures for April 2020 have been released, and an overview of the rates, numbers and trends is attached for information.

This release covers up to Thursday 9th April 2020, so reflects the initial impact of the UK lockdown implemented on Monday 23rd March 2020. Further impact is to be expected over the coming months.

The latest position for Staffordshire shows the claimant count rate has risen from 2.3% to 3.9%, a rise of 8,825 claimants, to a total of 20,875. Large increases have also been experienced both nationally and across the West Midlands. Nationally the claimant rate is now 5.0%, a rise from 3.0% in March, and in the West Midlands it is now 6.0%, up from 4.0% in March.

Staffordshire’s rate remains the third lowest compared to the 14 West Midlands Strategic Authorities, in addition to being lower than the West Midlands and national rates. All 14 West Midlands Strategic Authorities experienced large rises in the unemployment rate in April. Claimant rates across the West Midlands now range from 3.5% in Herefordshire to 9.0% in Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

All Staffordshire Districts have seen a rise in the number of claimants. Tamworth and Cannock Chase recorded the highest rates in Staffordshire. However all Districts remain lower or in line with the current national rate, and below the West Midlands position.

The new stringent measures announced by the Prime Minister to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak means we are all are now living in unprecedented times which will affect the economy, and the financial measures the Chancellor has put in place will help, along with emergency changes to the planning process.

The Government is launching a new Statutory Sick Pay Rebate scheme to put money back into the pockets of millions of employers, as part of our unprecedented package of measures to support businesses during this difficult time.

  • Throughout this pandemic many workers have had to take time off, either because they have Coronavirus or they are self-isolating or shielding, which has placed a significant cost burden on smaller firms.
  • The Government will be launching a new online service so that small and medium-sized businesses with fewer than 250 employees can recover the costs of two weeks of Statutory Sick Pay for eligible employees who have had to take sick leave since Friday 13th March 2020.
  • This is another of many schemes the Government has set up to protect jobs and livelihoods through this pandemic, supporting firms so they can hit the ground running as the economy reopens.

This builds on a package of measures to support people’s livelihoods during the outbreak:

  • Stepping in and helping pay 80 per cent of people’s wages - through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which is one of the most generous of any in the world – paying grants to support as many jobs as necessary.
  • Introducing Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to provide loans of up to £5 million, interest free for 12 months, to small businesses.
  • The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, where the Government has today announced the maximum loan size will be increased from £50 million to £200 million so businesses get the support they need.
  • A Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, where the government pays self-employed people a grant worth 80 per cent of their monthly profits - one of the most generous of any in the world.

Working to reduce the impact of redundancy

It is with great regret that we learned of JCB's proposed plans to make considerable redundancies across their plants, as a result of Covid-19. This news is devastating for all employees concerned and their families. While we await the detail, especially in terms of the numbers that may be affected in Staffordshire, we will do all we can, working with our partners such as Job Centre Plus, the local enterprise partnership and our district and borough partners to ensure all the support is there at this difficult time. We recently set up our Redundancy and Recruitment Triage Service to help get people who have been affected back into work as quickly as possible, and will be signposting as many people as possible to this valuable service.

The impact of coronavirus on our businesses and communities is unprecedented. Businesses are having to make incredibly difficult decisions to maintain their long-term sustainability but we are supporting them every step of the way.

As always, I'd welcome your support to encourage businesses to:

  • Contact the county council run Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Growth Hub for help - the first port of call for business support from qualified advisors.  Since the start of the pandemic, the number of enquiries made to the Growth Hub for help has increased by almost 3000%, with most people needing help with cash flow and navigating to the funding they could be entitled to.
  • Speak to the Redundancy and Recruitment Triage Service if they are struggling with staffing - and not to wait until crisis point. The service  was set up by the county council and partners to help businesses to provide support to their staff and help match their skills up with roles in the growth sectors.

It is no longer business as usual and we need to be flexible and ready to adapt our approach on how we work to ensure we can continue to do the job we were democratically elected to do.

Our long term economic plan in action shows we are backing businesses to create more, higher-paying jobs and as Staffordshire Conservatives we will continue to help people build a better future for themselves and their families.

Why does this matter? Because behind every employment number is a person whose self-esteem, mental well-being, economic circumstances and life chances are all vastly improved by being in the workplace. When people are employed and a small number of people claiming benefits across Staffordshire, this is good news for everyone in the county and means people are making the most of the opportunities on offer.

We have reacted to the pandemic threat, the next stage is recovery and then renewal in a changing world.

Thank you for your continued support.

Regards,

Philip Atkins OBE

Leader of Staffordshire County Council

Attachments

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Claimant Count - April 2020.pdf 273.71 KB