March 18, 2020 @ 16:34 by Richard Dawson
The employment rate in the North East has improved over the last quarter but still lags behind the rest of the UK, according to new regional labour figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Between November 2019 and January 2020, the employment rate rose to 71.7 per cent in the region, an increase of 9,000 over the previous quarter.
However, despite the recent increase, there are still 12,000 less people employed than the same period in 2018-19, owing to difficult market conditions in the most recent quarter.
In addition, the North East’s employment rate lags behind the rest of the UK, where the average is 76.5 per cent, representing a gap of 4.8 per cent.
The region is also performing poorly when it comes to unemployment, which stands at 80,000 (6.3 per cent) — an increase of 1000 this quarter and way behind the national rate of 3.9 per cent.
Jonathan Walker, North East England Chamber of Commerce assistant director of policy, commented: “This month’s figures reinforce the scale of the challenge to reduce unemployment in the North East.
“Levels are significantly higher than this time last year and the gap between the national and regional unemployment rate is extremely concerning.”
He went on to express concerns for the future of the labour market in light of the recent COVID-19 outbreak.
“With businesses now facing the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, it is imperative that the right support is in place to help them weather this storm and to ensure our economy can recover from any setbacks as quickly as possible”, he said.
Victoria Sutherland, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s senior economist, also outlined fears of the virus’s impact.
She added: “Whilst todays statistics are important, we must acknowledge the current economic position we are in.
“Moving forward we know that COVID-19 and the measures that are being taken to prevent its spread will have a significant impact on our economy.
“We are working very closely with government to monitor the impacts on the North East and to ensure our businesses get the advice and support they need at this time.”
On the whole, future employment figures are expected to take a major hit from the coronavirus in the future, with the travel, hospitality, leisure, and retail sectors set to suffer the biggest blows.
Due to the difficulty in judging the impact of the virus currently and predicting how long it will affect the UK, at this point it is very difficult to judge how serious the impact will be.