Page last updated at 12:19 GMT, Friday, 23 January 2009

Jobs are there - but at a price

Nick Servini graphic
By Nick Servini

Job Centre Plus

BBC Wales' business correspondent gives his latest assessment of the state of the economy.

So probably the worst kept secret in Britain has been confirmed. We are officially in recession.

And that of course means higher unemployment.

We found out this week that as the UK figure marches towards 2m, in Wales it is edging closer to 100,000. It now stands at 98,000.

The last time the figure was as high as that in Wales was 1999.

Back in the early 1990s, the time of the last recession, the number of people out of work was 136,000. It then gradually fell to below 60,000 in 2004 and since then has risen steadily.

What will concern people most is that unemployment is a lag indicator. Many of the job losses we've seen in recent weeks and months won't have filtered through into the official figures yet.

Job centre managers admit there are fewer opportunities being made available but a figure which may surprise people is that they have 15,000 vacancies in Wales now.


If you do what I did this week and go into a job centre and carry out an electronic search, you'll find a staggering range of opportunities from pizza delivery drivers to care home assistants and kitchen porters.

Crucially though, while there may be opportunities, the pay levels in many of these jobs won't be as high as the jobs in manufacturing which are being lost at the moment.

Corus, Llanwern
Hundreds of workers at Corus, Llanwern, have had pay cuts

One man who lost his job at the Borg Warner car parts factory near Port Talbot told me he was getting upwards of 9 an hour and he had it found it impossible to find work paying that kind of money in the Maesteg area where he lives.

Whatever the opportunities, it now seems there's nothing that can stop the number of people out of work in Wales reaching six figures.

But some of our biggest employers are going to great lengths not to add many more to the list. After all, it's expensive to go through a round of compulsory redundancies and companies won't want to lose their skill base.

One example comes from the steelmakers Corus who this week introduced pay cuts for around 500 workers at the Llanwern plant in Newport. There is virtually no current production at the site.

The staff are being given two options: stay at home and get half your total wage packet or continue to clock on and receive a basic wage, without any shift premiums.

Neither will go down well but the options have been agreed with the unions. All concerned know the alternatives are far worse.

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