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Reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics – May 2021.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Strategy and Policy Director, Richard Baker, has commented on today’s (18 May 2021) regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The official data released today includes employment information based on surveys in the first quarter of 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 April 2021.

“The headline North East regional data released today is encouraging after the challenges of the last year with signs of improvement in the labour market in the first three months of 2021. Employment increased by 14,000 compared to the last quarter of 2020 and unemployment decreased by 13,000. 

“However, this is just the start of the recovery and there is much work to do. Despite these increases, the figures show that the region has the lowest working age employment rate at 72.2%, compared to 75.5% across England. It also has the third highest unemployment rate in England (5.4% of the economically active) and the highest proportion of working age people who are economically inactive (23.5%).

“Over the past year, Covid-19 has impacted on the lives of many people in the North East region. About 32,000 workers have been made redundant since the start of 2020 and the number of payrolled employees in April was about 18,000 lower than in February 2020. At the end of March, almost 140,000 workers in the region were still furloughed. This meant that they were classified as employed in the official statistics, but in an uncertain position about their futures. About 44% of these worked in either food and accommodation services or retail, which highlights how important the impact of the changes to the rules which are now happening will be to North East employment trends during 2021.

“The latest job seekers claimant count continues to highlight large variations in unemployment within the North East LEP area. More than 30 wards, spread across all seven local authorities, have a claimant count rate of over 10 per cent, while a similar number have rates of less than a third of that. This count also highlighted that one in five claimants in the North East LEP area were aged under 25.

“As the controls on the economy are unlocked, the North East LEP will continue to work with Government and our partners to drive forward our vision of a more sustainable, competitive and inclusive regional economy.