Unemployment rate dips in Wales during coronavirus lockdown

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The number of people out of work in Wales has fallen slightly, according to new figures, but nearly a third of the Welsh workforce is now on furlough.

There are now 41,000 across Wales unemployed, suggests the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It is an unemployment rate of 2.7% compared to the UK-wide rate of 3.9% for the period of March to May.

However, figures from the ONS also show 378,000 people are on the UK's furlough job retention scheme.

The Dwyfor Meirionnydd constituency in Gwynedd has the second highest furlough take-up in the UK at 40%.

The latest unemployment figures for March to May show a fall in the overall rate of 1%.

However, the latest figures do not reflect recent announcements on large job losses announced at Airbus in Flintshire, BA and GE Aviation in south Wales, and at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport.

Flintshire mother-of-three Stephanie Barnett found herself caught between an employment rock-and-a-hard-place when lockdown hit.

She had decided to switch careers, from working in the home care sector to becoming a teaching assistant.

She officially finished with her care firm on 23 March and was due to take up a school post in Connah's Quay on Deeside the next day.

Of course, lockdown was then imposed and it meant Stephanie was no longer employed as a carer and not eligible for furlough.

But she could not take up her school job either.

image captionStephanie Barnett has been left stressed by being out of work

Instead, as a single mother, she was left living off working tax credit payments, and then had to claim Universal Credit.

"It was stressful - it was worrying," she admitted.

"It was down to me to pay the rent, pay the bills, buy the shopping for the children.

"It was tight for a few months and I struggled to get by.

"But with having three kids, you've just got to try and get by with things and deal with it how you can."

With schools only back for a few days before the summer holidays, Stephanie has still not been able to take up her new classroom job.

"It's just a waiting game until September and I can get back to work."

Across the rest of the UK, Scotland also saw a drop in unemployment, while England and Northern Ireland saw small increases.

The number of people claiming work-related benefits - including the unemployed - was 2.6 million.

However, one think tank has warned it believes the way the UK reports unemployment may not reflect the "true scale of joblessness".

The Resolution Foundation argues that the 23% drop in average hours worked between early March and late April is a better indicator of unemployment.

The damage to the economy from coronavirus is happening in real time while the official statistics tell us what was happening six weeks ago.

They're of limited use in such a fast moving environment.

There is a lot of data around though.

A higher proportion of Welsh businesses have furloughed staff compared to other parts of the UK.

Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) are a major driver of the Welsh economy responsible for 62% of jobs.

As an example, the tourism sector employs around 120,000 people in Wales and has largely been closed down due to coronavirus.

Parts of Wales where tourism is the dominant industry have shown high rates of businesses furloughing staff.

When furlough comes to end it's expected that many more jobs will be lost but it will take months for that to be reflected in the official figures.

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