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Friday, 22 November, 2002, 13:48 GMT
Wales: Hope amid troubles
The now clodes Corus steel plant
Last year Corus axed 3000 jobs in Wales

A glance at the unemployment figures for Wales doesn't suggest too much cause for concern.

Joblessness is at 74,000 (5.4% of the workforce) - a relatively benign figure compared to recent years.

As always, however, the headline figures mask a number of underlying trends - not all of which are considered beneficial.

Manufacturing continues its decline, responsible for an ever shrinking percentage of Welsh GDP.

Factory closures

A number of factory closures and cutbacks have hit the Welsh economy during the last year:

  • The announced closure of three of Dewhirst's factories - a clothing company which is moving production from South West Wales to Morocco. The closures, in Swansea, Cardigan and Fishguard are leading to 900 job losses.
  • The collapse of Allied Steel and Wire has led to over 700 job losses at Cardiff - although Spanish steelmaker Celsa group is considering buying a proportion of ASW's assets.
  • Last year Corus announced 3000 job losses in Wales - leading to the end of steel production in Llanwern near Newport and the complete closure of factories in Ebbw Vale and Gorseinon.
  • Around 1000 jobs were lost at a call centre in Pembroke Dock following the collapse of ITV digital.
  • In July the MoD announced that over 300 jobs were likely to be lost at their bases in Llanbedr and Aberporth - a severe blow to essentially rural areas.

Both tourism and agriculture have also suffered following the foot and mouth crisis last year.

Ambitious strategy

The National Assembly, however, is fighting back - with an ambitious 10 year strategy to close the income gap between Wales and the rest of the UK.

Finance Wales is a new creation - a subdivision of the Welsh Development Agency - with the task of nurturing new companies both via loans and a system whereby investors can buy an equity share in return for grants.

A Welsh steel plant
Heavy industry has taken a blow
The WDA is also ambitiously promoting broadband (high speed internet access). The National Assembly is providing 100 million to encourage more businesses to sign up.

Many parts of Wales also qualify for the highest level of support from the European Union, worth aroundf 1.2bn billion over 7 years.

Cheap labour

This is the first time that Wales has benefited - but enlargement of the EU may mean less European aid for Wales in future.

And there's the rub. Wales can't shield itself from the vagaries of the wider world.

Factors such as cheap labour costs abroad, the partial collapse of the civil aviation industry, and falling stock markets all have implications for Wales.

And macroeconomic decisions - such as the level of interest rates and whether to be part of a European single currency - are the preserve of others.

A poll for BBC Wales in January showed a majority in favour of euro entry.

Maybe Mr Brown should take note.

Map showing areas worst affected by job losses

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See also:

08 Nov 02 | Wales
29 Oct 02 | Wales
09 Oct 02 | Wales
30 Sep 02 | Wales
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