New report highlights 'hidden' unemployment in Sunderland as experts call for more support
Sunderland’s unemployment rate could be almost four times higher than the official figure, says a new report.
The Cities Outlook report from thinktank Centre for Cities says Sunderland has the third highest ‘hidden’ unemployment rate in the country, due to the high proportion of people who are involuntarily out of work but classed as economically inactive.
The organisation says the official rate only includes those actively looking for jobs and not people who are neither in work nor looking for a job due to circumstances outside of their control.
While official figures show the city’s jobseeker rate at 5.4% Centre for Cities estimates the actual ‘hidden’ unemployment rate could be as high as 19.9%.
Cities Outlook shows the North East’s largest cities and towns have some of the UK’s highest hidden unemployment rates. Middlesbrough has the country’s second highest rate at 20.2%, followed by third-highest Sunderland and ninth-highest Newcastle (18%).
Sunderland-born Centre for Cities economist Paul Swinney said city leaders were working to tackle the challenges but were not getting support from Whitehall.
"We hear a lot about how low unemployment is but the reality is there are a lot of people who remain concealed in the figures,” he said.
"We need to understand the size of the problem before we can do something about it.”
More needs to be done to increase the availability of high-value jobs in the city and local leaders could not do it on their own, said Paul.
National government had to do more to redress the balance between those parts of the country that were flourishing and those that were struggling.
“The whole levelling-up agenda is talked about but they have done very little,” he said.
“The Vaux site in particular and the things that are going on there, along with the renewal of the city centre, is exactly the sort of thing we need to be doing to attract not just more jobs, but better paid jobs.
“At the national level, there has been talk about a worker shortage but the fact is we have actually got a job shortage, not only in Sunderland but also across Northern town and cities as a whole.
‘A timely report’
“The work that is being done now is overdue but is very, very welcome. It will take some time, however, for it to impact the figures.
“Hopefully if we look back in five or ten years’ time, things will look different.”
Sunderland City leader Coun Graeme Miller welcomed today’s research.
“This is a timely report and study as hidden unemployment and economic inactivity raise many questions,” he said.
“There could be mis-matches between available work or people may have had a certain choice forced upon them because of their benefits, childcare costs or ill-health.
“Here, we have our City Plan for a more dynamic, healthy and vibrant 21st Sunderland, working with partners at local, regional and national levels to improve everybody’s opportunities in work, their education and their health.
“We want to emerge from the cost of living crisis as a healthier city yet hidden unemployment is an enormous challenge for the whole country and the Government needs to look and recognise that tackling it is a matter of urgency.