1. ITV Report

North East unemployment highest in the UK

Credit: PA Images

The North East has the highest unemployment rate in the country, according to new figures.

6.1% of people aged 16 or over were out of work in the three months to December, compared to the UK average of 3.8%.

People in the North East also work fewer hours, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.

The average worker in the region works 31 hours per work, compared to 34 hours a week in London.

The area has also seen the largest increase in the rate of unemployment, at 0.7%.

Jonathan Walker from the North East Chamber of Commerce, said the figures brought “precious little good news”.

“The gap between the North East and the rest of the UK continues to widen and we continue to have the lowest employment and highest unemployment rates in the UK, as well as the highest economic inactivity rate in England.”

Nationally, the number of people in work has surged. In the three months to December, 180,000 people joined the workforce.

The ONS said there had been a “strong” rise in the number of women in full-time work.

  • The North East Chamber of Commerce called the government to use the Budget to address. “the downward trend” in the region’s economy.

With the Budget just three weeks away, the Government needs to heed what is now a well-established downward trend in employment the region, as well as worrying regional GDP figures.”

We need the new Chancellor to deliver on promises to ‘level up’ the economy by focusing on much needed infrastructure improvements, support for skills and by giving region’s like the North East more say on their own futures.

– Jonathan Walker, assistant director of policy, North East England Chamber of Commerce

The newly appointed Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed on Tuesday that the Budget will go ahead on March 11.

The government has promised to "level up" up the northern economy after winning an 80 seat majority based on former Labour seats in the Midlands and the north.

Mr Sunak tweeted a picture of himself working at his desk with the caption: "Cracking on with preparations for my first Budget on March 11.

"It will deliver on the promises we made to the British people – levelling up and unleashing the country’s potential."

The government was criticised by campaigners on Friday after it was seen to have abolished the role of northern powerhouse minister, when Jake Berry MP was sacked.

Responsibility for boosting the northern economy was given to Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, who is MP for Welwyn Hatfield in Hertfordshire.

  • On Friday, Sarah Longlands, director of IPPR North, a think tank, said:

The prime minister must urgently clarify how the north of England will be represented in government. Amid the confusion of the reshuffle, the symbolism behind a watered-down northern powerhouse minister role is unlikely to go down well with northerners. Whilst improvements in transport connectivity is an important component of addressing regional inequalities, to truly level up we need to get the basics right which means good schools, decent health services and adequate housing

– Sarah Longlands, director of IPPR North