UNEMPLOYMENT in Wales increased by 8,000 across the quarter and the rate is higher than the UK average for the first time in a year.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that 74,000 are now available for work but not employed, putting the Welsh average unemployment rate of 4.9 per cent higher than the UK average of 4.7 per cent.

The figures reveal that the employment rate also increased, by 6,000 to 73 per cent, with more than 1.4 million people in the country in employment.

The rise in both rates is due to a fall in the third category, that of economically inactive people - those not in work or available to work.

The total number of people employed in the UK also rose by 39,000 over the same period to just under 32 million, meaning the employment rate is at its joint highest level since records began.

Since January, the 17 Jobcentres in South East Wales have supported more than 6,000 jobseekers into work and helped around 9,000 gain interviews.

As of April 3, Jobcentres in Newport, Torfaen and Monmouthshire supported 123 claimants to move off benefits and helped 257 jobseekers in gaining interviews.

The Newport centre held an agency hub day on March 31 which was hailed a “great success”, with 285 jobseekers attending alongside six agencies.

Cwmbran’s Jobcentre held a similar event on April 5, where more than 400 jobseekers attended to enquire about a range of jobs.

In Blaenau Gwent, a jobs fair in February attracted more than 55 employers and around 600 jobseekers.

Hub days for the care sector have taken place in Ebbw Vale and Abertillery Jobcentres.

For Caerphilly, the claimant count for all ages stands at 3,215, a reduction of 490 or 13 per cent.

Of those claimants, 875 were aged 18 to 24, 120 fewer - or 12 per cent - than last year.

First minister Carwyn Jones said the figures, “show growth and stability in the Welsh labour market”.

He also referred to the multi-million pound contract that was secured by Oakdale-based defence contractors General Dynamics UK.

“At 73 per cent, the employment rate in Wales is just below its historic high record, while unemployment has fallen faster in Wales than across the UK as a whole over the past 12 months.

“We are continuing to work well with business to create the right economic conditions to help create and safeguard jobs right across Wales.”

Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns, added: “I’m delighted to see that 6,000 more people are in work across Wales than three months ago and the unemployment rate is lower than it was this time last year. The UK Government is committed to ensuring that Wales remains open for business.”