North East jobs are on the up - but our unemployment figure still highest in the country

Government hails the figures but unions and Labour voice concerns about zero hour contracts and wage stagnation

A person walking past a job centre
A person walking past a job centre

Unemployment in the North East has fallen - and employment has gone up, according to new figures.

Official figures show unemployment fell by 10,000, to 126,000 in the three months to June - a drop of 7.4%.

However the overall unemployment rate of 9.4% is still by far the worst in the country which has a national average of 6.4%, The Office for National Statistics said.

Employment in the region went up 10,000 in the same period, a rise of 0.9%. Compared to last year it has risen 4.7% or 54,000.

Those classed as economically inactive in the region fell by 50,287 - the largest drop outside of London. These are people without a job who have not actively sought work in the last four weeks or are not available to start work in the next two weeks.

The Government have hailed the figures as proof of the success of its economic policies.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “The Government’s long-term economic plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society is working - with employment going up, record drops in youth unemployment and hundreds of thousands of people replacing their signing-on book with a wage packet.”

However, Government opponents said low pay and zero hours contracts were still a major issue.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Self-employment has been responsible for almost half of the rise in employment over the last year. The fact that self-employed workers generally earn less than employees means our pay crisis is even deeper than previously thought, as their pay is not recorded in official figures.

“Falling unemployment is always welcome - particularly for young people who are finally starting to find work - but unless the quality of job creation increases Britain’s living standards crisis will continue and people will be locked out of the benefits of recovery.”

The number of self-employed people has reached a record 4.5m - in the North East the figure rose by 14,000 - up 12.8% on four years ago.

And there are 95,000 people in the region on temporary or part-time contracts who’d prefer a full-time job.

Average earnings fell nationally by 0.2% in the year to June. Excluding bonuses, pay was 0.6% higher than a year ago.

Nationally, the jobless total was 2.08m in the quarter to June, down by 132,000 on January to March and the lowest since the end of 2009.

The total claimant count fell for the 21st month in a row in July, by 33,600 to 1.01m, according to the ONS. This included a 1,600 decrease - or 2.6% - in the North East. The year-on-year fall in this region was 24,000 or 28.6%.

Mark Stephenson of the North East Chamber of Commerce said: “The improvement in the North East employment rate remains one of the more eye-catching statistics from across the UK and has been deemed “statistically significant” by the Office for National Statistics.

“The decrease in the claimant count figure is again welcome and continues a longer-term trend. This figure is now at its lowest since September 2008 before the financial crisis and the economic downturn.

“However, the North East still has the lowest overall employment rate as well as the highest unemployment rate in the UK which highlights the significant challenges that remain.”

The number of unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds fell by 102,000 over the quarter to 767,000, more than 200,000 lower than a year ago, the biggest fall since records began in 1992.

In the North East the figure has fallen 1,000 over the year to 49,000, a drop of 2.2%

Shadow employment minister Stephen Timms said that while the fall in overall unemployment is welcome, “it’s extremely worrying that the figures have shown pay falling far behind inflation, and the change in regular pay being the lowest ever on record.

“A Labour government would extend free childcare provision, freeze gas and electricity bills, raise the minimum wage and build more homes to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. We would also bring in a compulsory jobs guarantee to get the next generation into jobs and tackle the high levels of long-term unemployment.”


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