A BUSINESS group in Huddersfield today urged the Government to offer “wage subsidies” to help firms avoid job cuts.
The call from the Lockwood-based Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce comes after latest figures showed UK unemployment has surged past 2m for the first time in 12 year.
Chamber director Andrew Choi said: “We are lobbying Government to urgently consider measures to support firms – particularly those now forced to think seriously about making redundancies.”
He called for funding to enable firms in key sectors, such as manufacturing, to bring in short-time working while maintaining pay levels via a Government ‘wage subsidy’.
And he called for training grants to allow firms on short-time to re-train or improve the skills of employees on days when they were not working.
“A company cutting back from a five-day week to a three-day week could use those two days to benefit their employees,” said Mr Choi.
Official figures showed the number of people signing on for benefit soared by a record 138,000 last month.
They also showed redundancies at a 14-year high – with jobs and vacancies falling and more people claiming jobseeker’s allowance.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that the total number of people out of work, including those not eligible for benefit, jumped by 165,000 in the quarter to January to 2.03m – the worst figure since Labour came to power in the summer of 1997.
The quarterly rise was the highest since 1991. The has now increased by 421,000 over the past year.
The number of jobseeker’s allowance claimants rose by 138,400 in February – the 13th consecutive monthly rise and the largest monthly increase since 1971. The new total of 1.39m is almost 600,000 higher than a year ago and is the highest figure since 1998.
The February claimant count for Huddersfield rose by 302 to 3,213, representing almost 6% of the resident working age population. The Colne Valley figure was 319 higher at 2,295 (3.7%) while the jobless tally for Dewsbury was 347 up at 2,496 (4.7%).
Across Yorkshire, unemployment rose by about 1,000 to 186,000 or 7.1% of the workforce.
The figures showed that 266,000 people became redundant in the three months to January, the worst figure since 1995 and up by 86,000 on the previous quarter.
The number of jobs fell by 203,000 to 31.3m in the quarter to December, the largest slump since 1992.
Vacancies fell by 74,000 to 482,000 in the three months to February, the lowest total since comparable records began in 2001.
The unemployment rate is now 6.5%, an increase of 1.3% over the year, the highest figure since the end of 1997.
Yorkshire Bank economist David Tinsley, said unemployment was set to peak at almost 10% of the workforce – enough to push the total to 3m. “We should expect some hefty rises in joblessness in the coming months,” he said.