New jobs figures show North East employment slipping further behind rest of the country
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Now the region’s biggest business organisation is urging the Government to do more to close the gap or risk seeing its pledge to ‘level up’ the country fail.
Employment figures released today, Tuesday, February 15, by the office for National Statics, cover the period from October to December 2021 for the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) – Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland – and Tees Valley Combined Authority areas.
They show the number of people employed in the region stood at 1,186,000 – a rise of 2,000 (0.1%) over the three months but a fall of 14,000 (1.1%) over the year.
The North East employment rate is 71%, compared to 75.5% across the country.
There are 70,000 people classed as unemployed across the region, an increase of 6,000 (9.3%) over the quarter but a fall of 11,000 (13.4%) over the year.
The North East unemployment rate is 5.6%, compared to a national rate of 4.1%.
The fact that both the number of people in employment and the number classed as unemployed have fallen over the year reflects a drop in the number of people classed as economically active and actually looking for work.
The drop in economically active people also saw the number of unemployment benefits claimants fall.
There were 85,200 claimants in the North East in January, down (0.9%) over the month and 32,700 over the year (27.7%). The claimant count rate for the North East is 5.9%.
Jonathan Walker, policy director, North East England Chamber of Commerce said the fall in employment year-on-year highlighted the differing effects of the pandemic nationwide: “Today’s statistics are a stark reminder that just as the impact of Covid was not felt evenly across the country, there is a real danger that economic recovery will follow suit,” he said.
"On the face of it, our labour market is in a much better place than this time last year. However, the gap between the North East and national unemployment rates continues to grow.
“Less than two weeks ago we saw the Government launch its ‘Levelling Up’ strategy, which was heavy with analysis but light on solutions and funding.
"Action is needed now to help businesses get back on their feet, tackle skills gaps and address the complex issues such as poor health that prevent too many people from being able to work in our region.
“Every time these gaps are allowed to grow is a missed opportunity that makes levelling up harder”.
NELEP Chief Executive Helen Golightly OBE added: “Today’s statistics show the North East continues to struggle.
"We have seen a decrease in unemployment – which would usually be good news, as it means that there are fewer people looking for work – but in the last year, instead of moving into employment, people have moved into the economically inactive category.
"It is clear that whilst many other regions are moving ahead, the North East continues to face labour market challenges.
“We believe levelling up the economy is the right thing to do, but the time is now to invest in the places that need it the most.”