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North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Strategy and Policy Director, Richard Baker, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)*.

Richard Baker said: “We’re now starting to see the shape of the labour market in the region as the economy moves out of Covid-related restrictions and support.

“The overall picture in today’s figures is of a labour market which is in recovery, but with a changed structure since early 2020. This recovery is tentative, with other data showing a slow-down in recent growth, the influence of other factors such as skills shortages in a number of sectors, and the need for support for workers to adapt to the changing demands of the labour market. There is some way to go to return to the pre-pandemic position.

“The latest regional employment data release covers the May to July three month period, during which some Covid-19 restrictions were eased. The ONS has also released experimental payroll data which provides more up to date data and also new data that provides the first statistics for local areas for a period entirely after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic (Apr 2020-Mar 2021).

“During May-July, the number of people aged 16 and over in employment in the North East region increased by over 7,000 compared to the previous quarter, although the total is still 18,000 less than in the same period during 2020. The number of unemployed people decreased by 12,000, compared to the previous quarter. The data suggests that some of this decrease was due to people leaving the labour market.

“The experimental pay roll measure shows an increase of 2,500 in the number of payrolled employees in the North East LEP area in August, and the total is now 7,500 higher than in March 2020. This source does not cover all people in employment, excluding, for example, self-employed workers.

“Comparing the newly released employment totals in the North East LEP area for the April 2020-March 2021 period with those a year earlier shows the impact of Covid-19 on self-employed and part-time workers in the area. 

“The overall decrease in employment of 10,000 (1.1%) was driven by a fall of over 17,000 in self-employment. Among the area’s part-time workers, employment decreased by 9,500, compared to a drop of 500 in the number of full-time workers. 

“Overall, the North East continues to have the second highest regional unemployment rate (5.3% of the economically active) among the nine English regions. The region also has the highest proportion of 16 to 64-year olds who are economically inactive (23.9%).

“At the end of July, about 41,000 workers in the North East LEP area were still furloughed, representing about 5.2% of all eligible employees. About 22% of these furloughed workers were in manufacturing, with 16% in food and accommodation services and most of the rest in other service sectors. More than half of furloughed workers in the North East region were on partial furlough, highlighting the gradual return to pre-Covid levels of employment.

“This data shows that there are opportunities to drive forward, but a number of challenges which need ongoing stimulus to the economy and support for individuals and businesses. The North East LEP will continue to work with Government and our partners to provide support to our regional economy as we work through the recovery phase and to seek investment into the proposals in our Recovery Plan to help accelerate our recovery.”

*The official data released today includes employment information based on surveys in three month period May to July 2021 for the North East region, which includes the North East and Tees Valley LEP areas. It also includes experimental estimates of payrolled employee numbers for August 2021 and LEP area data for the 12 month period April 2020-March 2021. The data has recently been revised to take account of improved population estimates.

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North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Strategy and Policy Director, Richard Baker, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)*.

“The latest data covers the March to May period, during which some COVID-19 restrictions were eased. Despite these changes, the overall labour market picture remained relatively unchanged on the previous (December to February) quarter with both the employment and unemployment rates remaining the same. 

“The North East continues to have the lowest working-age employment rate (72.0%) among the nine English regions and the second highest unemployment rate (5.8% of the economically active). The region also has the highest proportion of people who are economically inactive (23.6%).

“ONS continue to innovate with new data approaches to provide more up to date intelligence to support assessment of the economy, for example, a new experimental measure of payrolled employees. This suggests a more positive picture with the latest monthly estimate showing there was an increase of almost 12,000 payrolled employees in June. This is encouraging and we will monitor how this new data set develops given it is subject to revision and excludes information about self-employed workers.

“Beneath the general figures, COVID-19 continues to have an impact on the working lives of many people in the North East region and appears to be exacerbating inequalities. Whilst people were securing new jobs and there is growth in vacancies, about 4,400 workers experienced redundancy in the latest quarter, more than twice the total in the previous quarter and bringing the total to over 32,000 since March 2020. The latest data shows a particular impact on women in the North East with female employment falling by 3,600 in the latest quarter, in contrast to a 2,800 increase among males.

“Job seekers claimant count data provides indications of the variations of unemployment within the North East LEP area. At constituency level, the rates range from 2.8% in Hexham to 9.0% in South Shields.

“At the end of May, almost 63,000 workers in the North East LEP area were still furloughed, with workers in food and accommodation services still making up almost a quarter of this figure. Manufacturing accounted for 11,000 of the furloughed workers, a total that did not drop during those three months. 

“This provides a strong rationale for the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda with support needed to the North East as a whole and for places within the region. Over the longer term, our Recovery Plan sets out proposals to drive forward our vision of a more sustainable, competitive and inclusive regional economy. As the Prime Minister outlines the next steps with for the Levelling Up strategy, the North East LEP will continue to work with Government and our partners to provide support to our regional economy as we work through the recovery phase to seek investment into these proposals.”

*The official data released today includes employment information based on surveys in three month period March to May 2021 for the North East region, which includes the North East and Tees Valley LEP areas. It also includes experimental estimates of payrolled employee numbers and job seekers claimant count numbers for June 2021. The regional data has been revised to take account of improved population estimates.

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North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Strategy and Policy Director, Richard Baker, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

“As we mark the anniversary of the first lockdown, today’s data release is a timely reminder of the changes which COVID-19 has meant for our labour market. It provides the latest official data which includes regional employment information for the three months up to and including January 2021 and also annual comparisons.

“In the most recent months, the headline data has been stable. The employment rate in the North East region, which includes the North East and Tees Valley LEP areas, remains the lowest in England at 71.3 per cent, 0.1 percentage points higher than in the last quarter but 0.4 percentage points down on a year ago.

“The region has the second highest unemployment rate (6.2 per cent of the economically active) and the highest proportion of working age people who are economically inactive (23.8 per cent). Almost 30,000 workers in the region have been made redundant during the past year.

“However, some of the recent impact of COVID-19 has been masked by an increase in the use of furlough in the region. Over 114,000 North East employments were furloughed at the end of January, more than double the total of three months earlier. Most furloughed workers continue to be classified as employed in the official statistics.

“The impact on different groups in our population has been different. Younger people have experienced particular challenges both in employment and training and there have also been different patterns in the impact for men and women in the past year. The number of unemployed women has increased by 14 per cent, while male unemployment is lower (by about 8 per cent). Almost 52 per cent of furloughed workers in the North East at the end of January were female.

“The progress we are seeing towards the lifting of lockdown restrictions offers hope for the thousands of businesses unable to trade. Support for these businesses remaining under restrictions needs to continue.

“The North East LEP will continue to work with government as we look to drive forward our economy and address some of the key challenges which COVID-19 has created in our region.”

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North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Strategy and Policy Director, Richard Baker, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

“Today’s figures continue to demonstrate the impact of COVID-19 on our economy with a continuing decrease in employment and a rise in the number of people claiming unemployment related benefits.

“The decision to extend the furlough scheme will protect many jobs for the future. However, it remains an uncertain time for businesses as a result of Covid controls and the need to continue to adapt to new processes following the Trade Deal with the European Union.

“It is essential that government continues to support the economy through the pandemic and invests to support the proposals in our COVID-19 Recovery Plan to enable us to drive forward our region’s recovery.

“The data released today covers the three-month period to November 2020. Employment continued to decrease during this time, both nationally and in the North East. The employment rate for the North East region, including the North East LEP and the Tees Valley LEP areas, was the lowest in England at 71.2 per cent. Both the unemployment rate and the number of working age people outside the labour market were much higher than they were between March and May 2020. The number of people being made redundant was at its highest level since 2009.

“In the North East LEP area, the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits has increased by over 31,000 since March, with rates at 10 per cent in some areas. Employment in the region has fallen in most age groups, but the largest impact appears to have been on those aged under 25 and among 50 to 64-year-olds.

“These statistics include the November lockdown period but do not include the impact of the restrictions since Christmas.

“Strategic leadership and a strong partnership with government is more critical than ever – we will work closely with government to ensure that support for businesses is reflective of the need of our region.”

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North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Strategy and Policy Director, Richard Baker, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

“Today’s figures show a national surge in unemployment as employers prepared for the end of the furlough scheme. The North East region now has the highest rate of unemployment in the country which is extremely concerning – especially as this month’s data does not yet take account the impact of the current tighter restrictions.

“The unemployment figure for the North East region, including the North East LEP and the Tees Valley LEP areas, was at 6.7 per cent at the end of September, compared to 4.8 per cent nationally. The North East LEP area has seen the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits increase by over 60 per cent since March. A big concern is the large rise in younger people aged 16-24 not in employment across the UK.

“Our businesses continue to work hard to keep their teams together, but we are faced with a stop-start recovery, where ongoing support will be critical for business and for jobs. We welcome government’s recent decision extend the support available to the economy and will be monitoring its impact closely as we move into the winter.

“Strategic leadership and a strong partnership with government is more critical than ever – we need to ensure that support for businesses is reflective of the need of our region.”

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North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Strategy and Policy Director, Richard Baker, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

“Looking at today’s regional labour market statistics, the most important factor to note is that government support schemes have helped keep a significant number of people in employment since March. Data from HMRC shows more than 250,000 people in the North East LEP area have been supported by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and a further 54,000 self-employed people received government grants.

“Going into lockdown, the data shows that the North East region’s labour market was making further progress towards bridging the employment rate gap with other parts of the country. However, we know that the labour market is severely disrupted and that this is not the current position for our region, and the 55% increase in the number of people claiming Universal Credit in the North East LEP area since March 2020 is a clear warning about future risks. Whilst numbers here may be lower than increases seen across England as a whole, they do highlight the reality of the situation for many people in our region.

“Unfortunately, standard ONS employment data does not currently provide the analysis we need to assess the overall current status of regional and local labour markets. Looking at the national level as an indicator, the data suggests that the UK has around 650,000 fewer employees on payrolls than in March 2020 and that, in June, there were approximately half a million employees away from their jobs specifically for coronavirus-related reasons that were receiving no pay while their job was on hold. 

“We cannot, therefore, come to a definitive view about the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on employment figures. It will only be when government support packages end that we begin to see the true picture, and this combination of data shows the importance of a carefully designed approach to winding down Government support and the importance of boosting economic activity.

“The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, which was set up by the North East LEP, our Combined Authorities, Business and Universities to support the regions economy through the coronavirus pandemic, recently published a summary report highlighting its approach to help stabilise the economy. Protecting people’s jobs and supporting businesses to retain staff will be vital in the coming months, otherwise we can expect unemployment figures to rise significantly in the latter part of the year.”

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North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Senior Economist, Victoria Sutherland, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics.

The data covers both the North East LEP and Tees Valley LEP areas and is for the final quarter of 2019.

“Employment has fallen, with 12,000 fewer people in work between October and December 2019 than in the previous quarter, and 13,000 fewer than in the same period in 2018. The sharp decline over the last quarter is disappointing news for the North East. It reflects part of a broader trend with the North East being one of four English regions (Yorkshire and the Humber, West Midlands, South West) to experience a decline in employment over the last quarter.

“Within this overall trend, the number of women employed has increased over the quarter by 7,000, while the number of men in employment has declined by 19,000. It is unclear at the moment what is driving these differing trends.

“Unemployment increased by 3,000 over the quarter and by 9,000 over the year, increasing the unemployment rate from 5.4% to 6.1%. The North East is the English region with the highest unemployment rate. Again, the trends differ across genders, with male unemployment increasing over both the quarter and the year, whilst female unemployment has fallen.

“Combined, these figures suggest the North East labour market is less strong than it was a year ago.

“It will be critically important that the North East Local Enterprise Partnership continues to work with partners across the region to deliver the Strategic Economic Plan’s ambition of more and better jobs. The Strategic Economic Plan is the region’s plan for delivering economic growth, but we cannot do it alone. We hope that the upcoming Budget prioritises those investments that partners in the region have highlighted to government as being important to driving growth in our economy.”

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North East LEP ONS Labour Market Statistics reaction June 2019

North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Senior Economist Victoria Sutherland gave her reaction to today’s regional labour market statistics.

“It’s very disappointing to see that today’s statistics show that the number of people across the North East in employment has fallen over both the last quarter and the year. In total, there are 26,000 fewer people in work than a year ago, with the majority of those no longer in employment being women.

“There has been a particularly sharp decrease in the last three months, with 20,000 fewer people in work. We are one of five English regions that have seen a decline in employment over the last quarter.

“Both unemployment and economic inactivity have increased. There are 13,000 more people unemployed – those who are out of work and looking for a job – than a year ago, with a significant part of this increase (7,000) happening in the last three months. The unemployment rate is now 5.7%, compared to 4.6% a year ago.

“Adults that are not in work or looking for work – for example, because they are studying, looking after children or the home, unable to work due to health or disability or have retired – are referred to in the statistics as the economically inactive. The numbers of adults in the North East that are economically inactive has increased by 16,000 over the year.

“Whilst it is unclear what is underpinning these negative trends, there is significant uncertainty within the economy which is depressing investment and this is likely to be a key factor. It is critically important for the North East economy that the UK government seeks to resolve this uncertainty.

“The North East LEP will continue to work with its partners to deliver more and better jobs for the region. We are also delivering a significant programme of work to help prepare the region for Brexit-related changes.”