Like many new towns, over its 50 year history, Telford has suffered from high rates of unemployment, from being hard hit by all national recessions. These rates have been consistently higher than the national average, sometimes as much as twice as high, reaching over 22% at its highest. So where we are today, a steady 4.5% is fantastic news for our area.
When I first came to Telford in 2013 one of my priorities was tackling youth unemployment. Youth unemployment was 18% and the skills gap was the one issue that local employers told me made life difficult for business.
Delivering opportunities for young people, so they can earn a living, buy a house and build a future, is a key mark of success for any Government. We should not forget the exceptionally high rates of youth unemployment in Europe.
The last 5 years has seen a remarkable turnaround in Telford’s fortunes with business, jobs and growth flourishing. I was surprised to see last week’s Journal front page headline: “10,000 households now jobless.” This figure in fact includes students, early retirees, full time carers, sick and disabled people. As a percentage of all households in the borough, the rate of jobless households has been consistently declining. But it is not a measure of unemployment. Today, according to the Council’s figures, we see a total of 3,800 people in the borough unemployed, compared to 7,700 people unemployed 5 years ago, a decline of 51%.
Further good news is that business start-ups are at a record high and now exceed business closures by a greater margin than ever before.
You don’t need to look at the statistics on jobs to see the success story that is Telford. Just look at the packed car parks in the town centre or retail parks and the busy restaurants in Southwater, and the number of vacancies advertised.
While celebrating this success, I want to pay tribute to the fantastic work our Job Centre is doing. The team supports the long term unemployed, and those who find job seeking harder, due to disability or lack of skills or experience.
So as we mark Telford’s 50th, we should celebrate our economic success against the odds, and plan ahead to ensure we can continue to adapt and innovate, in what will continue to be a changing economic environment, both post Brexit and with the fourth industrial revolution.