Unemployment figures suggest furlough has worked in Wales

Plaid Cymru’s Helen Mary Jones MS has renewed the call on Welsh Government to conclude talks and to “act quickly” to provide further support to areas of the Welsh economy that have been particularly hard hit from lockdown measures – including tourism.

Ms Jones’s comments follow figures released today by the Office of National Statistics which show that unemployment figures in Wales remain largely unchanged during February – to April when compared to the previous three month period, suggesting that the furlough scheme – at least at the start of lockdown – has been successful.

However, once the furlough scheme begins to be tapered off by Westminster, there are fears that businesses will start to let staff go. Out of work benefit claims have doubled compared to last year, and since this covers a more recent period than the unemployment figures, Ms Jones fears this is an “ominous sign” that “worse is to come”.

Last week Plaid Cymru unveiled its own Emergency Economic Renewal Plan which contains “radical proposals” to protect livelihoods, re-boot the economy and “build back better”.

The Emergency Economic Renewal Plan proposes:

  1. An Employment Guarantee Scheme for 18-24-year-olds – with a Future Wales Fund which would offer a job to every unemployed 18-24 year-old in Wales.
  2. A plan to "reskill" Wales by giving every unemployed person over 24 years old a one-off, tax-free payment of £5,000 designed to help them reskill and find employment.
  3. An All-Wales Renewal Fund to support activity to:
    • Transform sectors identified as being hit hardest by Covid-19.
    • Build a sustainable Wales, paving the way to a Carbon free nation by 2030.
    • Develop a new sense of ‘localism’ which values public services.

At the time Ms Jones called for “urgent action” to protect the people of Wales from what could be a “perfect economic storm” and now says the situation faced by many in the tourism industry is “desperate.”

Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for the Economy, Helen Mary Jones, MS said:

"In the wake of unemployment figures being released, we are reminded that the Coronavirus isn’t just a health crisis, it’s an economic crisis, and the situation is now desperate for many businesses. The time for talking about the immediate response is now over. We need action, and we need it now.

"That the number of people claiming out of work benefits has already doubled is an ominous sign, and it must only mean that worse is to come once furlough is tapered off. For businesses that are closed to all income streams, such as hotels and tourist attractions, they will be unable to contribute towards the furlough scheme. Their only option will be to let their workers go unless the furlough scheme is amended and, for those sectors of the economy that are unlikely to be able to open safely and profitably in the short term, extended.

"The UK and Welsh Governments need to work closely to respond to the coming crisis. Of course reflection is needed as we consider what building back better means, but when it comes to responding to the immediate crisis it is time for action. We can’t sit around discussing what might be needed when tens of thousands of people face falling off an economic cliff edge in August. We need a swift conclusion to the ongoing discussions about further support for the tourism, hospitality and arts sectors, so that businesses can plan. And we need an emergency action plan from Welsh Government setting out what they are going to do to address the inevitable rise in unemployment. We in Plaid Cymru have said what we think is needed. What is Welsh Government going to do?"