Raj Kandola, director of External Affairs at Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “This morning’s ONS figures revealed a mixed picture as the unemployment rate ticked upwards both regionally and nationally with the challenging economic landscape continuing to hamper businesses in their attempts to hire staff.

“It’s likely that rising interest rates are weighing heavily on demand as vacancies also fell across the majority of sectors this quarter – any minor uplift in the overall employment rate is likely to have been driven by a fall in the economic inactivity rate as more people are now looking for work compared to the end of last year.

“Here in the West Midlands, the unemployment rate remains the highest of any region in the country – a trend echoed in our own research as data from our last Quarterly Business Report highlighting the severe pressures local firms are facing in trying to add to their headcount.

“With the continued squeeze on pay packets, the Government will need to show its ability to act decisively in a bid to drive economic growth and ease labour market pressures – broadening access to the shortage occupation list would be a sensible start.”