Unemployment in the North East fell by 1,000 in the three months to September, official figures have revealed.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that a total of 133,000 people were unemployed in the region between July and September - a fall of 1,000 over the quarter but a rise of 6,000 over the year.
The region’s unemployment rate was 10.2% and saw a fall of 0.5%, but is still the highest in the country.
Employment in the North East stands at 1,168,000 or 67.3% – a rise of 7,000 over the quarter and a fall of 8,000 over the year. This compares to a rate of 71.8% nationally.
The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance stands at 77,300 or 6.3% in the North East, compared to 3.9% nationally.
While the region’s union bosses have welcomed this recent turn of fortune, they say the dramatic rise in unemployment over the year cannot not be ignored.
Northern TUC regional secretary Beth Farhat said: “While there will be a great deal of celebrating and back-slapping in some quarters after today’s figures which show a rise in regional employment for the last three months, it is a bitter pill to swallow when closer inspection reveals a rise in unemployment which is six times greater over the year. Clearly, this doesn’t demonstrate a ‘recovery’ by any yardstick.
“There are also several other factors which undermine this seemingly good news; nationally, under-employment is at a record high of 1.45 million, workers are suffering the longest real wage squeeze in over a century and unfortunately, where there are new jobs the TUC Low Pay Recovery report found that 80% of net job creation since 2010 has taken place in industries where the average wage is less than £8 per hour.
“Job quality is falling and is now close to a 20 year low.
“We need better jobs and healthier pay rises to tackle the living standards crisis and ensure the full benefits of any recovery reach our workers.”
Employment Minister Esther McVey said: “This government is delivering on its promise to rebalance the economy, promote private sector job creation, and support people to get off benefits and into work.
“Today’s figures show that the number of people in work has risen by 7,000 in the North East over the last three months.
“At the same time, the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance has fallen by 2,600 across the region over the last month.
“There’s more work to do, and we are not complacent, but these are all very positive signs.”
But North East Chamber of Commerce policy leader Mark Stephenson said employment figures will only improve further if the Government helps businesses create wealth and jobs for the region.
He said: “Business confidence and investment intentions are on the up across the North East; our Quarterly Economic Survey is an illustration of that.
“The divergence between the annual and quarterly labour market estimates does not tally with the increasingly positive nature of the region’s most extensive business survey.
“A welcome albeit modest, rise in the quarterly employment figures, will be improved further if the Chancellor uses the Autumn Statement to help businesses create wealth and jobs for the North East.
“One positive trend that has continued throughout the year has been the falling claimant count, which is once again down and now stands at their lowest levels for two years, which is great news.”
Nationally, the number of unemployed people in the UK fell by 48,000 to 2.47 million between July and September, the ONS said.
The unemployment rate fell to 7.6%, the lowest rate in more than three years.
The Bank of England has said it will not consider raising interest rates from their record low of 0.5% until the unemployment rate falls to 7%.
The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance fell by 41,700 to 1.31 million in October.
Youth unemployment also showed signs of improvement, with the number of jobless 16-to-24 year-olds falling by 9,000 to 965,000.
Average weekly pay, including bonuses, rose to £475 per week.
The figures will be taken as an indication that the UK economy, which grew 0.8% in the third quarter, is continuing to recover.