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Phil Smith of Business West

Positive news from the labour market, but challenges ahead say business leaders

Business leaders have welcomed the news that unemployment in the West has fallen by 1.6 percent over the past 12 months.

The figures, released by the Office for National Statistics, represent 2,000 workers. Unemployment now stands at 4.8 percent, compared to a national average of six percent.

Commenting on the labour market statistics for August to October 2014, Phil Smith, managing director of Business West, said: “Today we see yet more positive news coming out of the labour market, with unemployment down both nationally and here in the South West.

“As we close out a year that saw the UK finally pull out of a damaging recession and unemployment nose dive, this is yet another reason to celebrate.

“However, this is no time for complacency. The year 2014 will be remembered as the year we pulled out of the downturn, but now we must secure it. Despite growth there are fundamental weaknesses to be addressed in both the labour market and the wider economic backdrop.

“For example, falling unemployment this year has masked stubbornly high youth unemployment and we constantly hear firms cry out about skills shortages caused by the current mismatch between education and employment.

“This year’s labour market statistics can be seen as an analogy of what we face on a wider scale. Throughout the year we have seen sparks of good news, such as increases in GDP and business confidence, but roadblocks still remain to securing long term growth.

“We now face a crucial time in the electoral cycle, and irrespective of which party forms the next government in May, change must happen which drives growth, aspiration and enterprise.

“In the New Year we will be releasing our business manifesto, which we will use to get the voice of local business in the room at this decisive political time.”