Unemployment halved in Sunderland – but concerns remain over pay and job security

Sharon Hodgson MP
Sharon Hodgson MP
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THE levels of long-term unemployment among young people in Sunderland has halved in the last year, new government figures show – but concerns remain about pay levels and job security in the city.

The North East as a whole has seen the largest annual employment increase of all UK regions according to the latest figures by the Office of National Statstics (ONS).

MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, Bridget Phillipson.

MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, Bridget Phillipson.

Employment in our region has been boosted by 54,000 people getting into work in the last 12 months.

The Labour Market statistics show the number of long-term claimants of Job Seekers’ Allowance in Sunderland among 18 to 24-year-olds is down 50 per cent year-on-year, with the number of short-term claimants dropping by 32 per cent. The number of claimants of all age groups saw a decrease of 31 per cent and 26 per cent respectively.

North East employer engagement manager for Job Centre Plus, Steve McCall, put the increase down to a number of Sunderland call centres, as well as care homes taking on new staff.

“It’s good to see the trend is going the right way,” Mr McCall told the Echo. “The likes of Sunderland have seen especially large increases in employment opportunities in call centres. Barclays, Npower, EE and 2Touch have been all been recruiting. It’s permanent, it’s full time, it’s part-time and short-term contracts. It’s a mix of employment opportunities coming up.

Job Centre

Job Centre

“It’s perhaps down to getting people to think about where their skills can find them work rather than concentrate on a specific career choice.

“It is also important to point out that there isn’t just call centres and careh omes. With the football starting again, along with major events at the Stadium of Light, we run courses in events cover and we also have a major retail employer coming to Sunderland this calendar year, which will be looking to recruit.”

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson said that while the statistics are positive, she still has concerns about the labour market as a whole.

“Any increase in employment is always to be welcomed,” Mrs Hodgson said. “The problem is that wages are still falling in real terms and lots of the jobs that are being created are part-time, low-paid and insecure, meaning that there are plenty of people in work who aren’t feeling the benefits of economic recovery.

“I also remain concerned about the number of young people out of work for more than a year, which is still three times what it was three years ago in my constituency.

“The government needs to adopt Labour’s policy of a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee, which would give those young people a decent paid job, combined with training, to ensure that they get the leg up onto the jobs ladder that they need.”

Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson added: “Today’s fall in overall unemployment is welcome, but unfortunately the North East still has the highest rate in the country. It’s also concerning that the figures have shown pay falling far behind inflation and pay growth at a record low. I know that too many constituents are struggling to make ends meet and long-term unemployment remains a major concern.”