Well over 1 in 3 people of working age in the West Midlands metro-area were furloughed, received self-employed income support, or were jobless during the height of the Covid-19 lockdown, according to figures commissioned from the House of Commons Library and revealed by Hodge Hill MP, Liam Byrne today. “Without urgent action, thousands more West Midlanders will be unemployed long term,” he said.
“The government’s own figures show the scale of the crisis hitting virtually every family in the region. Out of a working age population (16-64) of 3,651,170, some 1,295,305, were having to rely on furlough, self-employed support claims or were claiming unemployment benefit. That is a staggering 35% of the county’s working population.
Liam Byrne has demanded that the government’s comprehensive spending review should make the West Midlands’ economy a top priority in future plans.
“We clearly need urgent action to prevent further job losses. The West Midlands needs a fair share of government investment, a plan to deliver the right to work and train to our young people, and a determination to keep the pound local by ensuring public bodies buy British.
“Broken down constituency by constituency, we have a league table of despair. No neighbourhood is untouched. Many families will continue to see their incomes reduced even more in coming months’, said Liam Byrne.
He warns that the crisis is getting worse, not better, and that in some communities more than half of the population will soon be underemployed or entirely jobless.
Liam Byrne’s research shows that the crisis in employment extends well beyond the usual inner urban jobless “hot spots” such as Birmingham Yardley and Wolverhampton South East where over 40% need employment support.
Even people in normally affluent areas such as Meriden (39%), Stourbridge (37%), Wolverhampton South West (34%), Sutton Coldfield (34%), Solihull (33%) were affected.
“Who would ever had imagined that 1 in 3 of the population of towns such as Sutton, Stourbridge, and Solihull would have so many people dependent on the government for support” asked Liam Byrne.
“Coventry South with 1 in 4 receiving support comes off best, but even that shows how quickly we have to get the economy moving again.
“These are the latest figures available from July and August”, explained Liam Byrne, “they represent claims, and a handful of people may have made more than one claim on different schemes, but nevertheless they present a worrying picture.
Table broken down constituency by constituency across the West Midlands Combined Authority area: