Weymouth and Portland hit hard by jobs downturn

First published in News Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

UNEMPLOYMENT is on the rise in Dorset, according to new figures, with Weymouth and Portland particularly hard hit.

A report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the borough rose from 1,355 in January 2011 to 1,465 in January 2012.

In comparison, the number of claimants in the county rose from 4,496 to 4,689 in the same period.

Terence Bowering, of Puddle-town, has been looking for a permanent job for more than a year.

He said: “It certainly isn’t getting any easier out there. There just doesn’t seem to be any industry in the area any more.”

Mr Bowering, 58, added: “When I left school you could just walk from one job to another if you wanted to. Nowadays it’s a lot harder, and the whole pro-cess has changed.

You usually need to apply online, and if you’re not working, how can you afford a computer?”

The figures count unemployment claimants in January 2012 aged between 16 and 64 who are resident in each area.

Despite the increase, the number of unemployed remains below the national average. Businessmen pointed to a difficult economy having a knock-on effect on the amount of jobs.

Ian Girling, enterprise director of WSX Enterprise, said: “There is no doubt trading conditions remain tough and businesses are keen to reduce spend wherever they can – and often this means wage costs. However, people are the most valuable asset in any business.

“There is help for businesses looking to recruit, such as the apprenticeship scheme, where businesses who have not previously employed an apprentice can receive a grant of £1,500.”

He added: “It’s also important that businesses get their recruitment right and attract people with relevant skills, so they are ready to move forward when the economy begins to pick up.”

The findings also noted a sharp rise in claimants between Dec-ember 2011 and January 2012, with the amount of people in the county claiming benefits rocketing from 4,272 to 4,689, equivalent to a 9.8 per cent change.

The change for Weymouth and Portland was 9.2 per cent, rising from 1,342 to 1,465 while the national average for the same period was 5.1 per cent, increasing from 1,509,736 to 1,586,864.

But Gareth Jones, regeneration and business development officer for Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, said the change was not out of the ordinary for this time of year.

He said: “Unemployment is always a cause for concern, but this is part of a typical pattern and not unexpected. This area has a seasonal economy and January and February do tend to be the worst months.”

He added: “Unemployment in the area is still lower than the national average, which has less of a seasonal variation.”

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