Page last updated at 06:17 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 07:17 UK

Tour to test claims of recovery

Nick Servini graphic
WELSH ECONOMY UPDATE
By Nick Servini

Panorama of Aberystwyth
Aberystwyth is hugely dependent on the public sector for employment

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


I've been travelling to different parts of Wales trying to find out what's happening to the economy on our doorstep, just as the first claims of recovery begin to appear on the front pages of the newspapers.

I've focused on a village, Penyffordd in Flintshire; a town, Aberystwyth; and a city, Swansea.

Some economists may be debating whether growth has returned, but I'd say that feeling is certainly not shared by most people on the streets of Wales.

Probably the most positive noises came from Aspers Casino in Swansea, which opened almost exactly two years ago. The manager Paul Braithwaite says his figures have improved over the year but even he admits it's been critical to promote the business heavily with discounts and deals.

In contrast, the most blunt message came from the Castle Cement works near Penyffordd. The manager there can even remember the date when the order book fell off a cliff: 15 March, 2008.

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Economic powerhouse

Mark Cox says at first they thought it was a blip but it quickly became apparent something more serious was happening with the downturn in construction. He's predicting another full year of recession.

Penyffordd is fortunate. It's in an area of north east Wales which, together with the M4 corridor, is the country's economic powerhouse. The proximity to the Airbus and Toyota plants and others has provided plenty of opportunities in the past and no doubt will continue to do so in the future.

Those transport connections are not shared by Aberystwyth. Many people say its isolation and large public sector organisations have helped it develop a micro-economy of its own.

It's said to be the only town in Wales where the person serving you at the supermarket checkout may have a PhD. But it seems even Aberystwyth can't escape the impact of the global recession.

The big issue here is likely to be the size of any cuts in the public sector which most people now accept is going to happen at some stage. Aberystwyth is hugely dependent on this sector.

Biggest employers

To put it into perspective, the largest private sector employer, Rachel's Organic, employs 130 people while about 1,000 people will soon be working at the new offices belonging to the assembly government and Ceredigion council.

That same potential vulnerability to cuts also applies to Swansea where nearly 40% of the population work in the public sector.

The DVLA and Swansea council are the two biggest employers. However there has been plenty of activity in the call centre market. There are 20 operations in the city employing 6,200 people.

Recessions also throw up great personal stories and this one is no exception.

David Hopkin lost his job in a call centre in Swansea when the XL travel business collapsed a year ago. He's now flipping burgers in a van on the Pontardawe retail park after investing £14,000 in the business and he's loving every minute of it.

It's an odd thing to say, but for some people losing their job can be a positive thing.



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