“We need to make sure the resources we get go into developing employment and skills in this region.”
The Coronavirus crisis means that there are currently ten jobseekers for every job vacancy in the region.
Rising jobless rates and plummeting job vacancies mean West Yorkshire’s economy, like the rest of the country, faces a bleak period, despite some signs of the recovery having begun.
At a meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Employment and Skills Panel on Friday, members heard of some of the issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown.
The local jobless figure was rising as businesses collapse or cut staff in a bid to survive the pandemic.
At the same time, there were much fewer job vacancies arising, meaning those who have lost their jobs, or those coming into the job market for the first time, are likely to struggle to find work.
At the meeting, which was held remotely, Peter Glover, economic evidence manager at the Authority, said: “Online job postings have fallen by two thirds. There are signs of modest recovery, some signs the situation is bottoming out.”
But he pointed out that the number of new claimants in the region had increased by 87 per cent.
He said that before the pandemic there were roughly two claimants for each job vacancy. However, due to rising jobless figures and falling job vacancies, last month this had risen to 10 claimants for every job vacancy.
Last month there were 260,000 Universal Credit claimants in the Leeds City Region, a rise of 66 per cent.
Members also heard that over 250,000 people in the region were currently being furloughed – roughly 28 per cent of all employees.
Mr Glover pointed out that this high number, and the uncertain future of many businesses, meant the region may see even more job losses in the coming months as furlough schemes end.
He said: “This creates the potential for a second wave of unemployment as many who have been supported by the furlough scheme may find they don’t have a job to go back to.”
Members were told the local economy was likely to contract by 35 per cent in Quarter 2 this year, and by 13 per cent across the entire financial year, although he admitted even this figure could be “quite optimistic.”
Susan Hinchcliffe, chair of the Combined Authority and leader of Bradford Council, said: “This looks rather stark when you see these figures together. It highlights how significant the work of this board will be over the coming months and years.”
She said the West Yorkshire Devolution deal could aid recovery, adding: “We need to make sure the resources we get go into developing employment and skills in this region.”
Online courses were being set up to retrain people to help them in the increasingly competitive job market and provide them with new skills.