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North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics – May 2020

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 headline North East data includes both the North East LEP and Tees Valley LEP areas. It is based on interviews throughout the three-months from January to March 2020 and uses the internationally-agreed definition of employment that includes workers temporarily absent from a job. Furloughed workers and non-working self-employed people with a reasonable expectation of returning to their jobs are classified as employed in today’s data.

“Most of the data in today’s release relates to a period before the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions were put in place. It provides useful insights into how our labour market was performing through the first quarter of 2020.

“Overall, the data for this quarter was encouraging for the North East region, as employment increased by 28,000 compared to the previous three months, with unemployment falling by 8,000 and economic inactivity decreasing by 19,000. The latter is a broad group of people not actively seeking work for a wide range of reasons, including full-time study, looking after family and home, disability and ill-health, and retirement.

“Over the last quarter, the North East was the English region that had the largest increase in the employment rate of those aged 16 to 64 and the biggest fall in the adult unemployment rate. However, despite these encouraging trends, the employment rate was still the lowest, and the unemployment rate the highest, among the nine English regions.

“Whilst today’s statistics are important, it is clear that the measures being taken in response to COVID-19 are having a significant impact on our economy and that future reports are very likely to tell a different story with respect of our labour market. Today’s DWP benefit statistics give an indication of the scale of the impact, with the number of people on Universal Credit in the North East LEP area increasing by 43,000 (35%) between 12 March and 9 April.”

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), CBI, representing the business community, North of Tyne and North East Combined Authorities have come together to form the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group to provide maximum support for businesses in the immediate term and to plan for long-term economic recovery following the COVID-19 outbreak and to ensure the region has strong and collaborative economic leadership as we work through the impacts of the measures introduced to slow the spread of the virus.

The immediate focus is on supporting businesses to remain operational, to keep people in employment and to work with partners to solve industry challenges, however our Recovery Plan will aim to ensure the economy returns to a positive trajectory in terms of sustainable growth and employment as quickly as possible once the controls on economic activity are lifted

By coordinating one response to the current economic crisis, we will use our collective influence to reassure the North East public, deliver crucial interventions and lobby Government

The North East Growth Hub is working hard to ensure businesses have access to all the latest information, guidance and support regarding Covid-19. This can be viewed here: https://www.northeastgrowthhub.co.uk/toolkits/covid-19-coronavirus-toolkit

Business are also being asked to complete this short survey to help us understand what support is needed and feed this back to government: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/COVID19_Business_Survey