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.