The first publication of the Labour Force Survey which replaces the Quarterly National Household Survey (QHNS) was released on 16, January 2018 and is the official measure of unemployment. The most recent data shows that unemployment has fallen from a peak of 15% in 2012 to 6.7% by Q.3 2017. Within the South East region, which includes Wexford, unemployment has fallen from a peak of 19.0% in Quarter 2, 2012 to 8.1% in Quarter 2, 2017 with numbers in employment increasing by 29,000 to 214,900 over the same period. While data from the Labour Force Survey is not available at the county level, trends in the Live Register can give an indication of underlying trends in local unemployment.
Overall, the Live Register in Wexford has fallen by almost 42% in the 5 years to December 2017, close to the reduction of 44% nationally. In the year to December 2017, the Live Register in Wexford has fallen by 1,707 people, or almost 14%, again closely in line with national trends.
The Government’s primary strategy to tackle unemployment since 2012 is twofold:
- Firstly, through policies set out in the Action Plan for Jobs, to create an environment in which business can succeed and create jobs. This policy now includes a specific regional Action Plan for the South East Region that has seen over 8,000 jobs created in the region in the last two years.
- Secondly, through Pathways to Work, my Department ensures that as many new jobs and vacancies as possible are filled by people taken from the Live Register. Under this policy, employment services and activation supports are heavily concentrated on the areas of highest unemployment, including those in Wexford.
Currently, there are 11 Activation Case Officers in the Intreo service in Wexford. This is an increase of one in comparison to January 2017, when there were 10. Prior to the roll-out of Intreo, there were 8 Activation Case Officers in Wexford, including former FAS personnel and DSP Jobs Facilitators.
The Case Officer capacity is supplemented by referrals to Turas Nua under the Job Path programme and to Wexford Local Development which operates the Local Employment Service (LES) on behalf of the Department. Wexford Local Development is contracted to provide intensive supports to 960 customers and employs 8 mediators to support LES operations.
A total of 9,114 customer engagements were scheduled by Activation Case Officers in 2017 in addition to their work with employers. Local records indicate that approximately 5,300 referrals to Turas Nua took place over the course of the year.
Later this year I will be introducing a new work experience programme targeted specifically at young jobseekers who are long-term unemployed or who face significant barriers to gaining employment – people who even during the Celtic Tiger years would have found it difficult to get a foothold on the career ladder. The new Youth Employment Support Scheme (YESS) will provide young jobseekers with the opportunity to learn basic work and social skills in a supportive environment while on a work placement. Host organisations will be encouraged to hire participants who performed well, and will qualify for a financial subsidy under JobsPlus Youth. YESS will complement other opportunities developed by the Department of Education and Skills, such as the new Career Traineeships and Apprenticeships, and will broaden the choice available to young people. Operational details are currently being finalised and I hope to launch the scheme in Quarter 2, 2018.
To date, the policies being pursued under the Action Plan for Jobs and under Pathways to Work have been effective in reducing unemployment, both nationally and in Wexford and I am confident that they will continue to do so.