RISING unemployment in Coventry and Warwickshire for a second month has sparked concern among business leaders.
In Coventry, the claimant count rose from 4,265 to 4,430 in the month to February and from 3,710 to 3,900 in Warwickshire.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce says its next Quarterly Economic Survey, produced in partnership with Warwickshire County Council, should provide greater explanation for the reasons.
The government has recently been championing record employment nationally. Average growth forecasts nationally of between 1.5 and 2 per cent up to 2020 are slightly lower than pre-Brexit vote independent forecasts.
It is not known whether the impending triggering of Article 50 for the UK to formally start the process of withdrawing from the European Union is affecting business confidence, especially among importers and exporters across the region.
In the public sector, councils in Coventry and Warwickshire pushing through their budgets for 2017/8 are forecasting ongoing job losses up to 2020 in response to government funding cuts.
Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Of course, a second monthly rise is a concern.
“We half-expect a small rise in the first month of the year when there is seasonal shift in employment patterns but for it to continue for a second month is something we must look into.
“Our Quarterly Economic Survey for the first three months of the year will provide us an indication of how companies across Coventry and Warwickshire are feeling and give us an idea of how they expect to perform over the next year.
“We shouldn’t jump to conclusions and, again, we can’t yet start to speculate on whether this is going to be a trend.
“However, businesses are still telling us that there is a shortage of staff with certain skills in key sectors and we also know that companies in Coventry and Warwickshire are struggling to find space in which to grow.
“Of course, many will contend that Brexit will be playing a part too. Perhaps that is true because of the uncertainty that has brought to the economy.
“However, we believe that there is a great deal to be done within the domestic economy around infrastructure, skills, employment land and export support that could help to support our businesses’ growth.
“Coventry and Warwickshire is, we feel, in a strong place economically but it’s important that those issues start to be addressed to ensure our businesses can continue to grow on our patch.”
The West Midlands as a whole also experienced a dip in employment for a second month. The number of jobless increased by 0.3 per cent to 5.6 per cent and employment decreased by 0.4 per cent to 72.9 per cent.
Nationally, unemployment decreased by 0.1 per cent to 4.7 per cent and employment rose by 0.2 per cent to 74.6 per cent.