Falling Welsh unemployment revealed by official figures

UK unemployment fell 88,000 in the three months to April 2011

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Unemployment in Wales fell by 9,000 in the three months to April, official figures have shown.

Unemployment stood at 115,000 in Wales, down 9,000 on the previous quarter, a rate of 7.9%, compared with a UK average of 7.7%.

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said the figures showed the UK government's economic policies were working.

She called for the assembly and Welsh Government to work with Westminster, including developing enterprise zones.

The figures mean other areas of the UK such as north east England, Yorkshire and Humber and the west Midlands have significantly higher unemployment rates than Wales.

'Fragile'

But the number of people claiming jobseekers' allowance in May rose by 1,700 to 72,400 - a rate of 5.1%.

Statistics showed employment rose 19,000 during the quarter, putting total employment at 1,349,000.

The number of people classed as economically inactivite fell 10,000 in the period. There are now 480,000 people of working age in Wales who are economically inactive.

Analysis by Nick Servini, BBC Wales business correspondent

As well as the unemployment figures, the ONS revealed today how different parts of the economy are performing.

Figures for the first three months of the year show that 156,000 are employed in manufacturing, that's a rise of 8% on the year.

Wholesale and retail, which forms a large part of the service sector, employs 216,000, which is down 10 per cent.

And 339,000 work in the public sector after a reduction of 6,000 on the year.

The cuts in England in the public sector have been proportionately higher than in Wales. There have been relatively few compulsory redundancies in the public sector so far in Wales.

Public sector unions say those redundancies are round the corner but it appears the cuts are being made at the incoming end with low levels of recruitment to organisations like local authorities.

Unemployment came down by 10,000 on the year in Wales, employment rose by 36,000 and economic inactivity fell 19,000.

Meanwhile, the Welsh Government has relaunched a support scheme to help businesses affected by the Japanese earthquake.

Under the re-opened ProAct scheme, £4m will be available to companies that have introduced short-time working because of disruption caused by the earthquake.

Business minister Edwina Hart said the economy remained "fragile".

Announcements this month that a Lloyd's Banking Group call centre would close in Bridgend and another would open in Cardiff, creating 600 jobs, showed there had been "mixed news".

Plaid Cymru economy spokesman Alun Ffred Jones said the unemployment figures showed the work done by his party leader Ieuan Wyn Jones as the pervious Welsh government's economy minister was "paying off".

He said: "It is important that the strong platform Plaid Cymru has provided is used as a springboard to greater success."

The Welsh Liberal Democrats also called for the creation of enterprise zones.

Chancellor George Osborne has announced plans to offer incentives to businesses in zones in England.

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams said: "I don't want Wales to be left behind."

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