Page last updated at 17:34 GMT, Tuesday, 21 April 2009 18:34 UK

Manufacturing areas bear brunt of slump

By Michael Buchanan
BBC News, Staffordshire

Christy Jones
Christy Jones says she can't find a part-time job

They are gearing up for summer in the small Staffordshire market town of Leek.

In the warming spring sunshine, cafes have put tables on streets while posters advertising fetes and fairs adorn the shops.

And on the surrounding moors, the fallowness of winter has given way to the new season's lushness.

Tourism experts are predicting that many Britons are going to holiday at home this year, and towns like Leek would certainly welcome the business.

Vacancies

This area - Staffordshire Moorlands District Council - has seen the largest decrease in vacancies at its job centres over the past 12 months.

From February 2008 to February 2009, there has been an 87% fall in job openings

And there is no job centre in Leek, so people looking for work have to travel the ten or so miles to Stoke, although their prospects of finding employment appear to be little better.

Reg Robotham
Reg Robotham says you have to travel to find work

"There are a few vacancies," says Reg Robotham who has been looking for work for the nine months.

"But it depends on what you can do - most of them are for cleaners and they're only two hours a go, so unless you want to work seven different jobs you are really clutching at straws."

Competition

Christy Jones is less optimistic.

She is looking for a part-time job to subsidise her student life but is dismissive about what the job centre has to offer.

"There's nothing in there, there are no jobs anywhere, doing anything. It's useless coming in here, it's wasting my time."

Similarly pessimistic is David Owen. He is 58 years old and was laid off from his job as a furniture co-ordinator last October.

Mr Owen wonders if he'll ever get another job as he says the number of vacancies at the job centre has noticeably decreased.

"Where there used to be six to seven pages, it's now down to three. If you just want a normal job, that's paying £13,000 - £14,000 in this area, there are 60 to 70 people for every job."

Manufacturing and construction

David's observations are backed up by official data which show that between August and February this year, the number of unfilled vacancies at the job centre almost halved.

David Owen
David Owen was laid off last October

Analysis by the BBC suggests that it is a similar story across many parts of the Midlands, with four councils seeing the largest decreases in vacancies, all being based in the region.

And while the BBC looked at councils across England, Scotland and Wales. the top ten councils with the greatest decrease in vacancies were all in England.

JOB VACANCY FALLS
Staffordshire Moorlands - 87%
North West Leicestershire - 83%
North Warwickshire - 84%
Daventry - 83%
St Helens - 80%
Cheltenham - 80%
Craven - 79%
Thurrock - 78%
Corby - 76%
Newcastle-under-Lyme - 76%
Source: Office for National Statistics

Across the Midlands, two main reasons are given for the falling job numbers - manufacturing and construction.

Head of regeneration services at Staffordshire Moorlands Council, Perry Wardle, said that though they were primarily a rural authority, those sectors have had a local effect.

"We have three plants that are owned by JCB, where there have been significant redundancies.

"Other manufacturing industries have been hit as well, some through merger and acquisition. Construction and manufacturing are the main ones. "

Petition

Such is the concern among manufacturers that a local engineering company has set up a petition on the Downing Street website, urging the Prime Minister to do more to save the industry.

Rayne Precision Engineering has been forced to lay off half its staff as a result of the JCB cuts, and its petition has so far been signed by almost 1,000 people.

The BBC research is supported by other evidence indicating that the Midlands has been hardest hit by the recession.

Last week the Work Foundation revealed that Birmingham had seen the largest increase in people claiming job seekers allowance over the past year.

The economic downturn may have started in gleaming Wall Street offices, but it has quickly cascaded to the moors and dales of the Midlands.



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