The labour market in parts. One of the purposes of this To The Point series has been to look beyond the headline statistics that politicians focus on too intently. Sure, the labour market may be booming across the country as a whole, but is that true of the country in parts? An answer is provided by the chart above. Its underlying metric is the number of people who are either claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or are out of work and claiming Universal Credit. It shows the ten constituencies that have suffered the fastest rise in this number over the past year. These are ten constituencies where the labour market certainly isn’t booming.
From Aberdeen… The top five constituencies catch the eye. Not only have they experienced much faster rises in claimant numbers than the bottom five constituencies – fifth-placed Aberdeen North’s 47.2 per cent compares to sixth-placed Chorley’s 17.7 per cent – but they are all congregated in the same part of Scotland, around Aberdeen. This is the country’s oil capital. The declining price of oil has led to job losses which have lengthened the dole queues.
…to Redcar. Another constituency stands out: seventh-placed Redcar, where the claimant count has risen by 16.2 per cent over the past year. This is, of course, where a major steelworks was liquidated at the end of last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if the other constituencies on the list suffered similar industrial shocks – perhaps ConHome readers can inform me in the comments section.
The difference between a strong base… What the chart doesn’t show, with its percentage increases, is the actual number of claimants in these constituencies. This spreadsheet rectifies that. Turns out, the oily ones were starting with strong local economies – they were invariably described as “prosperous” ahead of last year’s general election – and are still relatively strong. Even after seeing its claimant count rise by 109.1 per cent, Gordon still has only 1.4 per cent of its working age population on those benefits. That proportion is lower than 470 other constituencies.
…and a weak one. Which brings us to Wales and the possible closure of the Port Talbot steel plant. The constituencies that will be affected are already in a weak position, having never properly recovered from the deindustrialisation of the 1980s. Aberavon itself is in the worst quartile of constituencies when it comes to its claimant rate, as is Swansea East, as is Swansea West… and so on. I’ve written about that corner of the country several times before. I’ll do so again tomorrow.