Mims Davies at Hatfield: DWP making ‘progress’ in job market

New UK labor market statistics are out and Mims Davies MP was in Hertfordshire to mark the latest figures.

Ms Davies, the Conservative Government’s Employment Minister, said the new figures mark “really brilliant progress” in the face of the cost of living crisis and fears of a recession.

She visited Ocado’s Hatfield customer processing center on Tuesday May 17 to see how Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) schemes are impacting businesses and employees.

“I like to get labor market numbers out on a day to see what’s happening in the local economy and where the vacancies are – to see what’s happening in different sectors,” Ms Davies said.

As part of her visit, Ms Davies met Ian, who started working as an Ocado picker in Hatfield.

Employment Minister Mims Davies met Ian, who started working at Ocado (pictured) as a packer and has since completed an engineering apprenticeship
– Credit: Will Durrant

“Ian went from picker to engineering apprentice, and now he’s moving on to more learning and training,” she explained.

“We know that the labor market supports career progression.

“It’s great to see companies like Ocado working with us to facilitate this process.

“Ocado has vacancies, it’s a growing business and there are great opportunities locally.”

Ocado's Hatfield Customer Fulfillment Center

Ocado’s Hatfield Customer Fulfillment Center
– Credit: Will Durrant

The new statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics on May 17, show layoffs are down nationwide.

Between January and March 2022, there were approximately 2.5 layoffs per 1,000 employees. This compares to 2.6 layoffs per 1,000 between October and December 2021, and 3.7 per 1,000 in the three months to September last year.

Unemployment is also down – at a rate of 3.7% between January and March.

But the number of vacancies is on the rise – a new record high of 1.3 million.

There are more vacancies than unemployed for the first time since records began.

Mims Davies at Ocado in Hatfield

Mims Davies at Ocado in Hatfield
– Credit: Will Durrant

Can small businesses in the job market keep up with these unprecedented numbers?

“Small businesses are often just trying to keep the wheels on the bus,” Mims Davies said.

“The fact that there are so many vacancies is Well.”

She said the DWP’s Way to Work program – a plan to match 500,000 job seekers with work by the end of next month – will benefit small businesses in the short term.

“Particularly for small businesses that are busy, where owners may not have time to resume recruiting, Way to Work will help.

“We don’t just work with big companies like Ocado.

“We work with the Job Center to explore local economies and their needs, and match job seekers with small business roles.”

"We work with the Job Center to explore local economies and their needs" (File photo)

‘We are working with the Job Center to survey local economies and their needs’ (file photo)
– Credit: Philip Toscano/PA

Locally in Hertfordshire, the number of claimants for benefits has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Prior to the Covid-19 lockdown on March 12, 2020, the number of people applying for Benefit – which includes Jobseeker’s Allowance – stood at 14,410 in Hertfordshire alone.

In March 2021, this figure stood at 38,200.

The most recent number (March 2022) is 20,675.

The redundancies in the east of England – which includes Hertfordshire – match the national picture.

Between January and March of this year, there was one worker laid off for every 1,000 employees.

This compares to three layoffs per 1,000 between October and December last year.

In March 2022 there were 6,265 more benefit claimants in Hertfordshire than there were in the same month in 2020

In March 2022 there were 6,265 more benefit claimants – including Universal Credit claimants – in Hertfordshire than there were in the same month in 2020 (file photo)
– Credit: Yui Mok/PA

What future for employees and employers?

The Minister said: ‘Employers are opening their minds to the people they bring into their workplace.

Ms Davies celebrates the arrival of one million more people with disabilities into the labor market than five years ago.

“People who have barriers to accessing work have more opportunities – and some of the best opportunities.

“We have reached the million mark – a target for us – and we have other targets that we want to set ourselves.

“What matters is that employers don’t just talk about diversity, they actually do it.

“And if you’re on benefits and things are tough for you, we can help.

“At work you could make up to £6,000 better.”

Ms Davies added: “To come full circle, the economy as a whole is coming back strong.

“Of course the costs are going up and it’s more difficult, but the Chancellor is there and Her Majesty’s Treasury is nimble enough to support people.

“I think we showed it with the leave.

“It’s all obviously part of a plan, balancing local needs with global issues as well.”

Mims Davies said Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured) is "agile" enough to guide Britain through a cost of living crisis

Mims Davies said Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured) is ‘nimble’ enough to navigate Britain through a cost of living crisis
– Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

The Office for National Statistics commentary on the latest data reads: “The latest Labor Force Survey estimates for January to March 2022 show that during the quarter the unemployment rate fell, while employment and inactivity rates have increased.”

The statement added: “The UK employment rate increased by 0.1 percentage point in the quarter to 75.7%, but is still below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.

“The unemployment rate from January to March 2022 decreased by 0.3 percentage point over the quarter to stand at 3.7%.

“For the first time since the start of the surveys, there are fewer unemployed than vacancies.”

Inside Ocado's CFC1 in Hatfield (file photo)

Inside Ocado’s CFC1 in Hatfield (file photo)
– Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA

Jerome Lopez, head of people experience at Ocado, said there were vacancies across the company – which delivers groceries nationwide.

Mr Lopez said: “Ocado is pleased to support the work with the DWP on the Way to Work campaign.

“Following previous successes, including the Kickstart program and job academy sector placements, we will continue to collaborate to fill vacancies with job seekers through job centres.”

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