Business figures in Leeds say they would employ people if they could.
But they say the right conditions are needed to invest in new staff.
This month’s jobless figures show 2.65m unemployed across the UK. In Leeds there are 25,462 jobless people and in Wakefield 9,926.
Mark Goldstone, head of business representation and policy at the Leeds, York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The Leeds labour market has struggled since the recession and unemployment stands at 4.7 per cent. Whilst this is higher than the national average, it is still one of the lowest rates amongst the UK’s eight core cities and is a testament to the flexibility of the modern workforce.
“There are now some indications emerging of an upturn in 2012. The chamber’s own quarterly survey showed that employment improved on the previous quarter with one in five businesses reporting an increase in headcount which is the first sign of progress in a year.
“However, with two-thirds of businesses currently operating below capacity, it is likely to be some time before we see any significant private sector job creation.”
CBI regional directorAndrew Palmer said businesses would start employing once confidence returned so the government must stick to its deficit reduction plan. He said: “While unemployment in Leeds is relatively high, it is worth noting that unemployment during the recession went up much less than economists suspected. Unemployment can have lasting impacts, particularly if a person becomes unemployed at an early age. This is a cost the CBI wants to avoid, which is why the CBI has called for businesses to take on young unemployed people or offer work experience.”
But Margaret Wood, chair of Yorkshire Institute of Directors and owner of ICW (UK) Ltd in Wakefield, said the young had been let down by governments. She said: “They are promised that a university education is their passport to a career and high earnings but as we all know once you have graduated that is when your hard work begins. Employers need work-ready young people with enthusiasm and a willingness to learn a particular trade. The Chancellor could have done more to encourage employers to take on more staff but fundamentally we need young people who can read, write and add up.”
Matthew Thomas, managing director of BCS Electrics in Leeds, said apprentices were often seen as a cost rather than an investment. He said: “There is no reward for employers who maintain their apprenticeship schemes, apart from hopefully having a good skill set and loyal staff in the future, and no penalty for employers who do not contribute to the future of the industry by employing apprentices, yet we still have to be competitive against the companies who do not have that training cost.”
Employment Minister Chris Grayling said the latest figures were “a step in the right direction” and believed the private sector would provide jobs.
He said: “We are pushing ahead with our strategy to promote investment and new jobs in the private sector and support people currently without work to take up those jobs.
“I am particularly encouraged that overall employment is now growing despite reductions in the public sector.
“There are still economic challenges ahead and the government is reacting by helping people to find employment through initiatives with the private sector at their heart.”
The Government said that in the past month 160,000 incentives of £2,275 had become available to employers who take on young people in the Work Programme.