THE Welsh Secretary has warned against complacency after new employment data showed a rise in the number of people in work in Wales.
Figures published by the Office for National Statistics yesterday revealed a 24,000 increase in the number of people in employment in the country over the last quarter
But Clwyd West MP David Jones, Secretary of State for Wales, said while the figures were positive, a note of caution should be sounded bearing in mind the devastating news of 600 jobs losses at Sharp’s factory in Llay, announced on Monday.
“Wales’s employment rate has increased by more than any other region in the UK and the rate of economic inactivity has fallen by the largest amount of all the UK nations and regions,” he said.
“These figures, coupled with last week’s news that Wales has seen the biggest increase in median weekly earnings of all UK regions over the last year, show that we are heading in the right direction towards a strong economic recovery.
“It is clear it is the private sector that is driving this growth.
“However, there is no room for complacency. This week’s announcement from Sharp of proposed job losses at its Wrexham site was a sobering reminder that there are still considerable challenges ahead.”
Sharp’s Llay plant will end its solar panel production at the end of February, with 250 permanent staff and 315 agency workers now set to lose their jobs.
It was also confirmed earlier this week that the First Milk company’s cheese packaging factory in Cross Lanes, Marchwiel will close, resulting in the loss of another 230 jobs.
Mr Jones added: “We must ensure we maintain close relations with businesses on the ground in Wales and focus on putting in place the right conditions to enable them to create jobs, to ensure this favourable upward trend in employment figures continues.”
The employment numbers mean Wales’ unemployment rate is no longer higher than the UK average for the first time in two-and-a-half years.
According to the figures, unemployment in Wales has fallen by 7,000 over the last quarter, with the youth unemployment level also seeing a decrease of 900 over the last month.
The number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance in Wales has fallen by 1,300 since October 2013 and is 12,700 lower than in November last year.
Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat business spokesman, said: “The economy is picking up and people are starting to feel it, employment figures are continuing to move in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go.”