WIRRAL has escaped being harder hit by the recession because of a handful of key investments, the deputy leader of the council said.
Speaking in light of the latest unemployment figures Cllr Phil Davies, cabinet member for regeneration, said the job situation in the borough had been boosted by big companies investing in Wirral such as supermarket giant Asda and the Contact Company which runs a call centre in Birkenhead.
Despite this investment, official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) puts the number of people claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance in December 2011 across Wirral at 8,686 which was 1,634 more than were claiming the benefit in the same month in 2006.
December’s figure represents 4.5% of the working-age population of Wirral claiming JSA which is just above the 4.4% unemployment rate for the North West and the national average of 3.9% for the same month.
Merseyside as a whole has seen unemployment rise with 35,188 (4.0% of population) JSA claimants in December 2006 compared with 50,114 (5.7% of population) in December 2011.
Statistics also show deep pockets of unemployment with Bootle and Birkenhead hardest hit compared to the rest of Merseyside. Bootle saw 9% (4,249 people) and Birkenhead 6.9% (3,384 people) claim for JSA in the same period.
Labour Cllr Davies said: “The climate over here still is very difficult. Businesses are still struggling.
“Relative to other Merseyside statistics our JSA statistics have not increased as much as other places on Merseyside. That’s largely thanks to the economic development team “Invest Wirral” and also we’ve had a couple of large companies expanding so we’ve had a £30m investment from Asda in Birkenhead town centre and the Contact Company, a Birkenhead call centre, that has created 500 extra staff.
“We’ve had two or three quite big projects which have generated a significant number of new jobs which have helped us to mitigate the worst effects of economic recession.”