Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Monday, 8 June 2009 12:31 UK

Tough times in job hunt hotspot

Nick Servini graphic
By Nick Servini

Job Centre Plus

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

There was a depressingly familiar ring to the latest report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which said there were more people claiming jobseekers' allowance in Blaenau Gwent than anywhere else in the UK.

On seeing the TV cameras turn up, one weary shop worker in Ebbw Vale summed it up when she said: "At least we're giving Merthyr a break for the day."

She was referring to the fact that Merthyr often tops many charts when it comes to social and economic deprivation.

Since the days of Peter Walker's valleys initiative more than 20 years ago, millions have been invested in the area and yet youth unemployment remains as difficult to resolve as ever.

It's easy to see why things are tough after a brief look at what's going on in Ebbw Vale.

The question everyone wants to know is whether we've seen the worst of it, there are some signs that could be the case
Nick Servini

Take Yuasa Battery, which used to be one of the largest private sector employers in the area with around 1,000 staff. There are now less than 400 but it's holding its own in the recession.

It actually wanted to expand at the start of the year and advertised for around 40 operators. Up to 500 application forms arrived in the post but in the end no-one got taken on as the expansion was put on hold.

Recruitment this year will be in single figures as the firm tries to see its way through the downturn.

At the recent TUC conference in Llandudno there was talk of the lost generation of young workers caused by the recession of the early 1980s. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has raised the distinct possibility of that happening again in many Welsh communities.

Car industry

Elsewhere, grim news but certainly no surprise that the Indesit factory in Bodelwyddan is to close with the loss of 300 jobs.

Union officials believe it's the last major washing machine factory in Britain, and together with the cutbacks at Hoover in Merthyr, marks the end of an industry in Wales that once employed thousands.

The question everyone wants to know is whether we've seen the worst of it. There are some signs that could be the case.

The purchasing managers' indexes are well respected indicators of what's going on and they're showing that the pace of decline is slowing.

Take the car industry. The Welsh Automotive Forum says production is down an eye-watering 40%. The workforce is now closer to 20,000 than the 25,000 it was a year ago, but for the moment at least things have stabilised.

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