Unemployment up by 116 per cent in Inverness since the start of Covid as Highland Council aims to launch a jobs programme amid fears those out of work could could treble by next spring
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Shocking new figures reveal that unemployment in the Highlands has almost doubled – up by more than 97 per cent since March.
Inverness – traditionally seen as the economic powerhouse of the region – was one of the worst hit areas seeing a rise in those out of work of 116 per cent.
Highland Council admitted that the devastating economic impact of Covid has triggered a “crisis” in the labour market and has been spurred into action.
The outlook for next year is even more bleak, current projections suggest that by next spring unemployment could top 10,000 with 2200 of those being young people.
Both figures are more than three times the pre-Covid unemployment levels.
The reasons behind the sharp rise are primarily the pandemic and the risk of a no deal Brexit but underlying issues like a lack of opportunities for the young and long-term unemployment also played a roll.
The council is spearheading the efforts of a multi-agency economic taskforce that also includes the likes of NHS Highland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to regenerate the economy.
Key to the response – which is set to be discussed and agreed – at a full meeting of the local authority on Thursday will be to create its own version of a job creation programme that paves the way for others to do the same.
But it will be a huge task because the number of people aged 16–64 seeking work is currently estimated to be 6567 – before March it was 3245 – that is the equivalent of 97.7 per cent, slightly worse than the Scottish average.
Inverness saw the second highest increase with the number of jobless going up by 116 per cent, Skye was the worst of 170 per cent, followed by Fort William (99.6 per cent), Dingwall (94.8 per cent), Invergordon (64.2 per cent) and Wick (62.8 per cent).
Deputy leader of the Highland Council, Alasdair Christie, who has seen the impact of joblessness first hand with his work at the Citizens Advice Bureau, insists “we will get through this together.”
The council is spearheading the efforts of a multi-agency economic taskforce that also includes the likes of NHS Highland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to tackle the problem.
Key to the response – which is set to be discussed and agreed – at a full meeting of the local authority on Thursday will be to provide the maximum amount of employment opportunities.
Members will be asked to agree that the council adopts a pro-active and leadership role with partners through the Highland Employability Partnership to help people find work.
It will also agree to the proposed staffing changes to ensure that the council has capacity to effectively undertake the move which includes an employability team leader position budgeted at £135,000 over two years.
But the big move would be commit the council, as a massive employer across a wide range of professions, to offer work experience and job creation opportunities.
Councillor Christie said: “For everybody this has been a horrendous year with Covid and the lockdown but now we see the economic impact across Scotland and the Highlands.
“I think it is quite clear that everybody has got to do all they can to mitigate this but we are in a very serious area – 10,000 projected – and whatever other retail outlets go on top of the ones we already know about it.
“So it is very difficult times and we all know what unemployment can do to communities, can do to the city, can do to the villages and towns. So it is quite clear that we are in an extremely serious area now that has to be addressed by the Scottish Government and by Westminster.
“I think it is really positive that the council is trying to create as many employment opportunities as it can and encourage and work in partnership with other organisations to do likewise.
“It goes for everyone from refuse to amenities to the surveyors, the architects, the accountants, the IT people and human resources, teachers, non-teaching assistants, social workers.
“The council’s range of jobs is phenomenal and we will be doing all we can to make sure we are able to offer job opportunities in the Highlands for people to make sure they can get jobs but on top of that they will make sure they get employment.
“No one agency is going to come out of this alone between the government, the council, the NHS, large private employers as well.
“The economic taskforce that has been set up is addressing this, bringing people together to have these conversations so we can work in partnership so we can create the right level of jobs in the right area and spread it around.
“It is quite clear we need to address the whole of the Highlands with a pan-Highland approach. By working together, the council, the other agencies and most of all the Highland people we will get through this together.”