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Dole queues fall across the West for the first time

Dave Harvey | 11:02 UK time, Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Is this the end? The beginning of the end? The end, as the man once said, of the beginning?

This morning unemployment has fallen in every one of the West's local authority areas.


Not huge - in Wiltshire it was just 40 people - but the numbers claiming jobseekers allowance fell everywhere.

Here's the list:

Somerset : 308 down
South Gloucestershire : 219 down
Bristol : 201 down
Gloucestershire : 169 down
Dorset: 154 down
Swindon : 118 down
B & NE Somerset : 53 down
North Somerset : 51 down
Wiltshire : 40 down

And for all those statistics-lovers out there who want to see three monthly comparisons, the numbers are all down on May's figures too. Yes, there are still thousands more people out of work here than there were a year ago. In Bristol for example, unemployment grew from 6,134 last September to 11,306 last month.

But now the queues have stopped growing, and started shrinking.

In total, there are 1,313 people in the west of England who have stopped signing on.

And that should be good news. So why is nobody cheering?

I can't find a soul in a suit who thinks this recession is anywhere close to ending yet.

It's the Big W they're all afraid of. Not the Woolies store of course, not any more. But the fear that no sooner have we come up out of the credit crunch, than a big public sector freeze sends us crashing down again.

Now all the politicians have talked openly of cutting the debt by curbing Whitehall spending, the only question is where the axe will fall.

And in the West, a lot of cash comes from Whitehall. Councils, yes, but also our huge Universities; the massive MoD supply and logistics HQ at Abbey Wood; big hospital trusts and quangos like the Environment Agency.

No-one expects to see nurses uniforms in the dole queues, at least not soon. But even if politicians save those "front line staff", as they call them, others will feel the chill.

Contractors, whether in computers or training or bricks and mortars, turned to the public sector when commercial work ran dry in 2008. But contractors are the first to get trimmed back when hospital managers or university Vice Chancellors are trying to cut costs.

Now, as one man said to me the other day, they hope the private orders will come back before the public purse snaps shut.

Still, today our jobless numbers have fallen. A new supermarket opens in Chard, hiring 59 people.

So not the end then, no. But maybe, Mr Churchill, the end of the terrible beginning.


  • Comment number 1.

    The heading for this article "Unemployment is falling......" is a total distortion of the facts. It is still rising, ok not at as rapid rate as before but still rising fast. There again politics has also applied the same principal in rewritting the rules that will determine when our government (and the political commentators who support them) can can claim this recession is over. In past two consecutive quarters of growth had to be achieved before the governement of the day could claim a recession had ended. Now an economy that is still contracting but contracting at a slower rate will suffice.

  • Comment number 2.

    Emigrating : Your point is well made about the UK as a whole, but actually here in the West the numbers are down.
    Actual numbers claiming jobseekers allowance in August in, say, Somerset: 8005. Same figure for September: 7,697. 308 people are now not claiming the benefit, hopefully in work. There are, of course, all sorts of arguments about the stats. And yes they are way up on a year ago, when Somerset was at 3,975, half the current level.
    But in the West, unlike the country as a whole, unemployment is down, isn't it?

  • Comment number 3.

    I would love to see how many people are not claiming benefit for reasons other than finding full time work. What is the trade off betwee other types of benefit, finding work of more than 16 hours a week, or being mis-employed in jobs that are ultimately not suitable for the individual for many reasons.

    Where I live in South Lanarkshire, people are tryng to find ANY job. I was a trainer for years until last December. Now, I'm making ends meet with 3 part time jobs :S So, I'm not claiming benefit, but I am struggling with rubbish jobs and long hours. Our council is promising cuts of £111m from next year, so I can sympathise with the fear of Big W!

  • Comment number 4.

    Picking up from #1 and 2

    You are probably correct that unemployment "in the West" is falling. The question is, why for the first time in my recollection was this local perspective thought newsworthy enough to feature on the News Home Page? And why was it sold under a banner: "Cash in the West:
    Unemployment is falling, but there is little cheer".

    The only credible answer is that it was intended to present as positive a spin as possible on the "less bad than expected" unemployment figures. One can only assume that there is an editorial policy to talk up anything that could be seen as a "green shoot".

  • Comment number 5.

    Is it any wonder we start to question everything when we are fed such distorting headlines."Unemployment is falling". Oh, really?
    Even when not RISING as fast this past month, means it is STILL rising.
    Who or what was that untruth supposed to serve?
    Please, we deserve better.
    John C.

  • Comment number 6.

    I’d be interested to see the stats for disability claimants, and to see the stats for those claiming jobseekers > 6 months (who drop off the calculation criteria). I wonder if there is a correlation in the subsequent graphs. It has been mooted that government departments actively encourage redundant workers with disability allowances and disablement type benefits.

  • Comment number 7.

    Johncoy: sorry you feel badly served. As I said above, the numbers here, in the westcountry where I sit, are going down. They have undoubtedly gone up since a year ago - as I said in the original post. To repeat, in most of the west country unemployment is double the numbers in Sept 2008. But this month, they have gone down ever so slightly.
    No spin intended, chriss-w, positive or negative. Just a change of direction in the numbers.

  • Comment number 8.

    We are only just starting to see the public sector reductions and then of course all the losses to come from cutting contracts and services; police, council staff, MoD, etc, all facing reductions. Of course the joy for Gordon Brown is he doesn't take the blame, which just falls on the councils or agencies. He just cuts back the central grant or budget and passes the blame on to someone else. Fundamentally it is his years of overspending and lack of investment in UK ecomony that is to blame; we are still one of the worlds biggest economies and one of worse at overspending, therefore a major contributor to the global financial mess and he was in charge all during the time this was developing.


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