Not too long ago, I was forecasting that Gloucestershire might be expecting 12 000-15 000 people unemployed at the end of furlough in September.
I am pleased to say that my estimate was wide of the mark and the final figure could now be around 8 500 when confirmed later this month.
However, job vacancies in the county have rocketed and as I write there are over 43 000 posts available. Far more than pre-Covid.
Quite extraordinary figures for which are also quite difficult to understand. I am indebted for them to Jute Blackmon, GFirstLEP’s very astute analyst. And the benefits claimant rate at 3.2% is obviously higher than pre-Covid but nowhere near what we thought it would be.
We urgently need to drill down to ascertain which sectors those 43 000 posted jobs are in and develop initiatives with employers to fill them.
And, of course, we need to look at those people who are now unemployed as a result of furlough.
We have no figures as yet but my guess is that there will be people in their 50s who have decided during Covid to look at changing their careers.
And there will be skilled engineers, for instance, nearing retirement who have decided to take the opportunity to leave earlier.
One big thing that Covid has taught us is that we need to anticipate future challenges in employment far quicker.
That means government must look to ensure that Further Education colleges have the funding to develop courses to fit the jobs of the future.
I am particularly, thinking of encouraging green skills here to meet the demands of Net Zero whether in business or the home.
So far we have seen little evidence of government coming forward with green skills support.
These large job vacancy figures might appear on the face of it to be good news.
But many of these jobs may not have even existed pre-pandemic and we must be aware that new opportunities will almost certainly require new skills.
And better skilled people means better productivity and a growing economy for Gloucestershire.