Jobless total rises fastest in North-east

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The Independent Online
THE HEARTLANDS of manufacturing in Britain face a jobs crisis, the Trades Union Congress warns in a report today, with the constituencies of the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer among the hardest hit.

The North-east as a whole has seen the biggest increase in claimant unemployment in the past six months. Within that region, the Prime Minister's constituency, Sedgefield, has seen the greatest rise, amounting to 6 per cent in the past year. In Scotland, Gordon Brown's seat, Dunfermline East, has suffered the biggest jump in joblessness - a rise of 14 per cent, according to the TUC analysis.

The warning from the unions comes on a day when official figures are expected to show an increase in the jobless total for last month. The total rose by 4,300 to just over 1.3m in February and unions have been at the forefront of complaints that interest rates have remained too high for manufacturing industry, even though the service sector has continued to grow.

The regional breakdown of the figures by the TUC shows a manufacturing divide, with rising unemployment in the North. Constituencies across the services-dominated south of England have not suffered any increase in unemployment. The fact that the manufacturing regions are mainly in the Midlands and North, and also parts of Scotland and Wales, makes the split particularly uncomfortable for the Government. Unemployment has risen 3.7 per cent in the North-east and 3.3 per cent in the West Midlands. It fell 3 per cent in London during the same period.

Sedgefield saw the biggest increase in the North-east but some constituencies in the West Midlands, the North-west and Scotland, where manufacturing is concentrated into smaller pockets, suffered even bigger rises. Three adjoining West Midlands constituencies, Halesowen and Rowley Regis, Dudley South and Stourbridge, saw the claimant count rise 14 per cent, 16 per cent and 13 per cent respectively. In the North-west there were similar rises in Pendle, Burnley and Congleton and there was a 10 per cent rise in Livingstone, near Edinburgh.

John Monks, the TUC's general-secretary, said: "Brit-ain is now a two-speed, two- nation economy. Manufacturing is moving into recession and the service sector continuing to expand." Mr Monks said that without action to increase job opportunities in the manufacturing regions, the Government's New Deal programme for the long-term unemployed would be jeopardised.