Jobs market remains toughBy Caroline Cook
July 25, 2011
Job seekers in Wokingham are still facing tough times with four times more people unemployed than there are jobs available.
Latest figures show 1,365 people are claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) in Wokingham, but there are only 319 job vacancies in the area.
Iain Brown, chairman of trustees for Wokingham Job Support Centre, said the number of people coming through the centre in Norreys Avenue is still high, with some repeat users.
He said: “As far as we are concerned we still have new clients registering at quite a high rate and return visitors as well.
“We can only go on what’s happening and people coming through our doors.
“We had a peak in May 2009 and it has tailed off since then.
“That in itself does not tell the whole story because between January 2008 and now we are running at almost three times as many people coming through our doors, even though the trend has tailed off a bit.”
At the start of the year there were three times as many jobseekers than there were jobs in Wokingham, with 1,481 receiving JSA and 446 jobs, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics.
But Mr Brown said the centre does have considerable success, despite fewer job opportunities in the town.
He said: “People who stick at it, and if they follow the advice they are given, generally find something. We have a lot of success – it’s not all doom and gloom.”
Mr Brown said there are employment opportunities in nearby areas, such as plans by supermarket chain Tesco to build a food distribution depot in Reading which could provide 1,000 jobs.
He said: “We are in such a state of economic turmoil, that is the problem, but there are some success stories around.
“The private sector is leading the way and there’s good news such as the Tesco distribution centre in South Reading.
“I’ve always been an optimist and if people retain an optimism they’re likely to be successful.”
More than half of those claiming JSA in Wokingham are aged between 25 and 49, with 325 aged between 18 and 24, and 265 in the upper bracket of 50 to 64.
Mr Brown said he had noticed a higher number of older people visiting the centre with some experiencing redundancy for the first time in their careers.
He said: “From my own observations what I see is an increasing number of older people who probably for the first time in their lives are facing the prospect of being made redundant.
“We are able to help them a great deal by getting them to refocus or retrain even and by keeping their CV updated.”
People are also continuing to seek financial advice from the Wokingham Citizens Advice Bureau with steady numbers through the door.
CAB manager John Ferguson said: “We have got lots of people coming but not a particular change, it’s been fairly steady.
“People tend to sort themselves out and when they’ve realised they missed a couple of mortgage payments then they will come to us.”