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Business meeting. Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

Regional unemployment hits record low

Unemployment in the North East is at a record low and is no longer the highest in England, according to figures today from the Office for National Statistics.

The jobless rate in the region in July-September was 4.2% – its lowest since current records started in 1992.

This is still higher than the UK average of 3.6% and higher than most other regions. But it is lower than in the West Midlands, where the rate is 4.7% and the same as in London.

The North East’s reduction in unemployment of 0.9% compared with the previous quarter (April-June) was the largest in the UK. The biggest rise was 1.1% in the East Midlands, and there were also increases in the West Midlands and Northern Ireland.

However, economic inactivity – those not in a job or seeking one – rose in the region by 0.3%, which is above the average increase of 0.2%, and the North East still has the highest rate of inactivity at 25.2% apart from Northern Ireland with 27.7%.

The overall result is that the North East’s employment rate – those actually in jobs – remains the lowest except Northern Ireland; the respective rates are 71.2% (NE) and 70.1% (NI).

The ONS statistics come on the day when the North East Local Enterprise Partnership NELEP), the private sector-led body charged with the region’s economic development, was holding its annual ‘Our Economy’ event to discuss progress in achieving its ten-year strategic economic plan (SEP), launched in 2014.

Though NELEP members have some cause to celebrate today’s record low unemployment rate for the region, they will be conscious of the fact that, with less than two years to go before the SEPs’ scheduled end date, some of its key targets now seem beyond reach. Among other objectives, NELEP aimed to halve the gap in the activity rate between the North East and the national average excluding London and fully close the employment rate with the average excluding London.

NELEP’s own assessment of performance against targets, from before today’s figures, can be found here.

Callum George, Policy Adviser at the North East England Chamber of Commerce said: ‘In the North East, the unemployment rate has improved by 0.9% compared to April-June 2022. Additionally, the employment rate has improved by 0.3%. However, economic inactivity has worsened by 0.3%.

‘With Prime Minister Sunak’s government announcing their new fiscal plan in two days, it is crucial that those who are struggling to access the job market are accounted for. This means a commitment to training and education, as well as a focus on helping adults back into work who left the labour market during COVID.’