Hull: City where 18 people chase every job vacancy
The crossing, built to serve the £100m Boom complex before the project fell victim to the bust, has become an emblem of the city’s economic woes, its nickname conveying a little of the hopelessness felt by the tens of thousands of jobseekers searching for work in the country’s most difficult job-hunting ground.
There are more than 18 applicants chasing every vacancy here, more than three times the national average. In the Hull North constituency, the number of jobseekers per available role rises to an alarming 44.
More than 15,000 people in Hull are claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance, almost a tenth of the working age population, and that statistic – double the national average – becomes all the gloomier when you consider not everyone who is unemployed will claim. Some estimates put the true jobless figure at double the claimant count, meaning as many as 30,000 people in the city could be out of work.
Among them is formerly self-employed builder Jamie Wainwright, who has struggled to find work for about two years.
“It’s virtually impossible now,” the 34-year-old, of Spring Bank, says outside Ferensway Jobcentre. “We made it through the first year of the recession but after that things really did start drying up.”
Desperation for work took him to New Zealand, where he spent six months searching, largely without success. Since landing back home he has only managed to find around 100 hours of work despite being highly skilled in joinery, plastering, tiling, plumbing and roofing.
“That’s just over two weeks in a year,” he says. “I’ve been going for building work and labouring jobs as well. Even with my skills I can’t get in as a labourer.”
What few construction contracts there are, he says, are going to out-of-town workers.
“My line of work has always been word of mouth, so if the people you know aren’t getting anything you struggle to get in anywhere else,” he says.
He estimates he has applied for up to 50 jobs a week at times, adding: “It’s demoralising, because you don’t even get a reply.”
Like many people, he is pinning his hopes for Hull’s future prosperity on a green energy revolution, with the proposed £210m Green Port Hull development and Humber Gateway offshore windfarm offering a glimmer of light on the horizon.
“A friend of mine has recently retrained to do the maintenance of the turbines,” says Mr Wainwright. “For the guys who are trained in that they are going to be laughing.”
His optimism is tinged with caution, however. “I’m hoping to get something when they start building, but again it will probably go to out of town contractors.”
Another jobseeker feeling the effect of the ailing construction industry is semi-skilled ground worker Lee Richardson.
The 24-year-old, of Newbridge Road in Burstwick, is among the one in seven young people on the dole in the city, where a 1,000-strong hardcore of 18 to 24-year-olds have been claiming for more than a year.
He was employed for two-and-a-half years by Astral Properties but lost his job after contractor Connaught went bust in 2010. He has been searching for work for six months and feels little hope of finding any.
“When I sign on it’s a minute,” he says. “I’m sat down, I sign on and I’m sent on my way because there are that many people there. It’s depressing.
“You get some people that are here just for the sake of it, just waiting for their fortnightly money. You can’t live off that kind of money. I get £95 every two weeks – that’s travel expenses, gas, electricity, food.”
Living on such a meagre sum, he says, is “demoralising” and he is forced to make sacrifices.
While how to get young people into work is a matter of concern for the Government, unemployment bridges the generations.
It’s something Keith Barker, 53, has found himself having in common with his daughter Alexandra, 19, as they sign on together.
“I just can’t find work in this area,” said Mr Barker, an IT manager who has been out of a job for four years. “There have been too many companies that have moved away from Hull.”
As a father, he worries for the future of his daughter, who is looking for a summer job until she starts a sociology degree in September. She hopes one day to become a teacher.
“I think Alex’s biggest chance of getting any sort of career is to complete her degree course and move out of town,” said Mr Barker. “I don’t think there’ll be anything for her in Hull, even with a degree. It has just got too run-down.”
He went on: “It boils down to if you work, you have a life. If you don’t work, life sucks.”