North East jobless rate unchanged

Unemployment in the North East remained unchanged on 5.8% in the April-June period compared with the previous quarter (January-March), while the national rate was down 0.2% to 4.7%, according to figures today from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The North East region continues to have the UK’s highest jobless rate apart from London. The capital’s rate, however, is falling – down by 0.5% to 6.4%.

The North East’s economic inactivity rate of 24.1% is the UK’s highest apart from Northern Ireland, where it is 25.9%. The North East rate, however, is up by 0.7% on the quarter while that in Northern Ireland is down by 1.3% and the UK national rate is down by 0.2% to 21.1%.

However the North East, along with the North West, East Midlands and Northern Ireland, continues to have more payrolled employees than in February 2020, before the pandemic. This is in spite of the region’s employment rate falling by 0.4% to 71.6% between January-March and April-June.

The ONS said: ‘Over the course of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, payrolled employee growth rates in all regions followed a similar pattern: rapidly declining and becoming negative from April 2020 but beginning to improve again in recent months.’

The number of people aged 16 and over in employment in the North East region in April-June decreased by almost 6,000 but an experimental pay roll measure from the ONS for July shows an increase of 3,000 in payrolled employees in the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) area covering Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and County Durham..

Richard Baker, strategy and policy director of the NELEP, said the data suggested that the decrease in the number in employment in April-June was due to people leaving the labour market rather than becoming unemployed.

At the end of June, about 51,000 workers in the NELEP area were still furloughed, representing about 6.5% of all eligible employees. For the first time, workers in manufacturing made up a higher percentage of furloughed workers than in food and accommodation services or retail. About half of the furloughed workers were on partial furlough, highlighting the gradual return to pre-Covid levels of employment, said Mr Baker.

He added: ‘In combination this data shows a regional economy in recovery, with opportunities to drive forward, but with a number of challenges which need ongoing support.’