UNEMPLOYMENT in Ludlow has jumped again as the area struggles under the weight of the impact of Covid-19 on the economy.

Philip Dunne MP has said early signs of a bounce back in the Midlands economy are welcome, while latest figures show unemployment rose slightly in south Shropshire over July.

The MP who has been shielding from the virus because of a medical condition says that there are concerns about what will happen when the furlough scheme ends in October and that the economic impact of the pandemic is far from over.

The headline NatWest West Midlands Business Activity Index – a seasonally adjusted index that measures the month-on-month change in the combined output of the region’s manufacturing and service sectors – rose sharply from 50.4 in June to 61.9 in July.

The latest reading signalled a much stronger increase in business activity at the start of the third quarter, in fact, the second-fastest rate in the survey history (behind February 2014). The same report suggested business confidence reached the strongest in three-and-a-half years during July.

Meanwhile unemployment in south Shropshire rose again in July, with 70 more people claiming unemployment benefits. But when compared to May 2020, this represented a large reduction in the number of people being laid off, when the claimant count had risen by 565.

In south Shropshire, Mr Dunne claims that 11,000 jobs have been secured through the government’s furlough scheme, and £13.5m has been paid to help support the self-employed. Over £25m has been paid out to businesses through grant support, and local businesses have accessed nearly £50m in bounce back loans.

“Employment is vital for people’s prosperity, so it is always disappointing to see the claimant count rise, but I welcome the fact the rise has slowed significantly since the worst of the crisis earlier this year,” said Mr Dunne.

“The government’s support schemes have been crucial in giving business the time and security to keep people in work.

“It is early days, and there is clearly nervousness about what happens when the furlough scheme comes to an end, this autumn. We are by no means through the economic impact of the pandemic yet.”

“But latest PMI data indicates a rebound in business confidence as we get back to work, and supports recent Bank of England signs that economy seems to be bouncing back at a slightly faster pace than first thought.

“We must wait and see if this data translates in the real world to give more people in South Shropshire the security of a regular pay packet.”