Positive new employment statistics have been cautiously welcomed by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
But the organisation focused on driving economic regeneration in the region says more needs to be done if the North-East’s historically high unemployment rates are to be successfully tackled.
Richard Baker, LEP strategy and policy director, said of the latest regional labour market statistics released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS): “The headline North-East regional employment data confirms the progressive improvement of the economy as Covid-19 controls are released.
“But they also show clearly that there is a long way to go for our region.”
The latest employment total was 2,000 higher than in the previous quarter, while unemployment had decreased by 4,000.
Despite these improvements, the region had the lowest regional employment rate at 71.9 per cent, compared to 75.5 per cent across England and the unemployment rate (5.9 per cent of the economically active) was the second-highest in England.
The North-East also continues to have the highest percentage of working-age people who are economically inactive (23.5 per cent).
Mr Baker said: “Covid-19 continues to have an impact on the working lives of many people in the North-East region.
“About 4,500 workers experienced redundancy in the latest quarter, bringing the total to 29,000 in the latest 12 months.
“In addition, 48,000 self-employed workers in the region had claimed support in the first few weeks of the latest grant of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
“At the end of April, over 115,000 workers in the region were still furloughed and, although classified as employed in the official statistics, many were in an uncertain position about their futures.
“Over a quarter of these worked in food and accommodation services and eight per cent were in arts, entertainment and recreation.
“As we have heard from industry leaders this week, jobs in these sectors are particularly likely to be impacted by yesterday’s four-week extension of restrictions.
“The latest job seekers claimant count data continues to highlight how the impact is uneven in different places with large variations in unemployment within the North East LEP area.
“There are 25 wards, spread across all seven local authorities, with a claimant count rate of 10 per cent or more, while 18 wards have rates of less than a quarter of that.
“This count also highlighted that one in five claimants in the North East LEP area were aged under 25.
“It is essential that the government continues to balance health risks and economic impacts ensuring that there is a steady and predictable pathway to removing controls for business and employers, and that decisions to slow progress are accompanied with ongoing support to the economy.
“Over the longer term, our recovery plan sets out proposals to drive forward our vision of a more sustainable, competitive and inclusive regional economy.
“The North East LEP will continue to work with the government and our partners to provide support to our economy over the next few months and seek investment into these proposals.”
The latest official data includes employment information based on surveys in the three month period February to April 2021 for the North-East region.
It also includes experimental estimates of payrolled employee numbers and job seekers claimant count numbers for May 2021.