After three years during which it became the unemployment blackspot of Britain, the West Midlands is leading the nation's labour market recovery, according to the latest survey from one of the country's leading recruiters, Manpower.
While employers in Wales, Scotland and the North remain pessimistic about jobs growth, those in the Midlands are seemingly buoyed by the revival in manufacturing, part of the wider "rebalancing" of the British economy much talked about by the authorities.
The Manpower survey also revealed that central government – in sharp contrast to local councils – has scarcely started to shed jobs. Mark Cahill, the UK managing director of Manpower, said: "We've been warned for such a long time to expect large-scale public-sector job cuts in central government, but in our experience that is just not happening.
"Ministers must realise that the longer they wait to start this process, the harder it will eventually become. Current conditions do call into question whether the big redundancies will happen at all."
Smaller companies, according to Manpower, seem to be leading private-sector recruitment now, perhaps because, unlike the larger concerns, they were less able or willing to "hoard" labour during the downturn. Despite a rising trend in unemployment, with the latest data due tomorrow, Manpower reports severe shortages in some skills, especially for engineers, dubbed "the new plumbers", and IT specialists. They report that Jaguar Land Rover recently took four months to recruit 80 engineers; but that there were 15,000 applicants for 1,500 semi-skilled positions.
Meanwhile, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said that May saw a further slippage in property transactions and an increase in the numbers of new instructions, both pointing to a softening in values, at least outside London.
Some 28 per cent more surveyors reported price falls rather than rises – the lowest reading since the beginning of the year. After a disappointing April, with its extended holidays blamed by some for the languid market, there was little renewal of momentum in May, even with its clement weather.