FIGURES showing a 97 per cent increase in the number of people unemployed in the Borders have been described by a councillor as “alarming”.

During a meeting of the council’s executive committee last Tuesday (February 9), a report was put to councillors “to highlight the challenges of increased unemployment and numbers of redundancies in the Scottish Borders”.

In an appendix of the Scottish Borders Council (SBC) report, the extent of the unemployment issue was outlined in a graph for each of the 11 wards in the region.

The graph shows the percentage of the 16 and over population in each ward that were ‘out-of-work claimants’ in December 2020.

Hawick and Denholm had the highest percentage of its population unemployed (7.4 per cent), with Tweeddale East experiencing the lowest percentage (3.8 per cent).

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Galashiels and District recorded 630 people unemployed in December – 6.4 per cent of its population.

The graph also records the percentage change in the number of people unemployed in each Borders ward between December 2019 and December 2020.

On average, there was a 97 per cent increase in unemployment across the Borders – 10 per cent higher than the Scottish average.

Tweeddale West saw the biggest spike between December 2019 and December 2020 (189 per cent), followed by Jedburgh and District (157 per cent) and Leaderdale and Melrose (155 per cent).

Hawick and Hermitage saw the lowest rise (54 per cent), one of four wards below the Scottish average.

Below is a graph showing the difference in the number of people unemployed between December 2019 and December 2020. 

The graph was created by the Border Telegraph, using the data published by SBC.

Overall, there were 3,505 people out of work across the Borders last December – representing 5.2 per cent of the population.

Galashiels councillor Euan Jardine said the figures were “alarming”.

Tweeddale East councillor Robin Tatler echoed Mr Jardine’s sentiment, adding: “This is a sobering report in relation to the statistics.”

The figures in the report also show the age groups most affected by the unemployment issue.

Across all age groups, the Borders saw a higher change in the percentage of people unemployed compared to the Scottish average.

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In the age category 18-24, the region saw a 96.2 per cent spike, compared to an 88.8 per cent rise in Scotland.

In the 25-49 bracket, the Borders recorded a 92.3 per cent increase, compared to an average spike of 87.1 per cent across Scotland.

There was a 111 per cent rise in unemployment in the 50 and over category, which saw an 87.6 per cent jump nationally.

The report put to the executive committee states: “Unemployment is affecting all age groups but especially the 16-24 age group.

“The numbers unemployed in this group in December 2020 were 765 – 22 per cent of the total.”

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In outlining the issue, the report says: “Unemployment has increased significantly in the past year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and is likely to increase further due to the end of the UK national furloughing scheme for employees.”

It later adds: “National economic forecasts suggest that the levels of unemployment and redundancies will increase markedly, particularly as the funding for the UK Government’s furloughing scheme is reduced and comes to an end.

“This will likely lead to increased poverty and more disadvantaged and vulnerable families and individuals, and place additional demands on public sector support services.”

In the report, SBC outlines the measures it is taking to tackle the issue of unemployment in the Borders, such as establishing a “leadership group on employability”.