Page last updated at 10:12 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

'Uncertainty' as recovery begins

Nick Servini graphic
By Nick Servini

Job Centre Plus
Unemployment is set to rise further before it will fall

The official figures may prove that we are out of recession, but for most people on the ground it won't feel that way.

There's too much uncertainty around. The recent announcement that the Bosch factory in the Vale of Glamorgan is going to close with the loss of 900 jobs is the kind of thing still feeding into the public mindset.

And even though last week's unemployment figures in Wales and across the UK were down, they're likely to rise further before tailing off.

This recession has changed the industrial map of Wales. Some well known names, like Hoover, Indesit and L'Oreal, have either made huge cutbacks or pulled out of Wales altogether.

Unemployment has risen by 50,000 in the period we've been in recession since the spring of 2008.

Over the course of the past year manufacturing output has reduced by 12% while the service sector has fared better with a drop of 2% over the past year.

But the figures only tell part of the story. On the downside we've seen how vulnerable many foreign-owned factories in Wales can be when things get difficult.

On the plus side, there's been genuine surprise at how flexible the workforce has become. Sabbaticals, pay cuts and short-time working have all been features of the past 18 months in workplaces across the country.

The recession has forced people to change their lives dramatically and the way many have faced up to that has been genuinely impressive.

New working lives

I've come across a boat-builder who became a baker, a factory worker who became a bus driver and a call centre worker now flipping burgers in a van on a retail park. In most of those cases they are enjoying their new working lives.

But for many people the cutbacks will have left them out of pocket in the long term. The thousands of lost manufacturing jobs were on the whole well paid and the redundant workers will struggle to find equivalent pay packets.

With cutbacks in the public sector on the horizon it will be down to entrepreneurs and the private sector to create jobs in the future.

As a result, a big focus will be exports thanks to the weak pound which should make our products competitive abroad. The other crucial element for future growth will be more bank lending to small and medium-sized companies.

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