North East unemployment down, but figures miss wave of imminent job losses

Job Centre PA
What does this mean for jobs in the North East? Credit: PA Images

The number of people in the North East claiming work-related benefits now stands at more than 123,000, official figures have revealed.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says the claimant rate fell slightly in June, but was still 80% higher than during the same period last year.

Unemployment in the region fell between March and May, but economists say the full impact of the pandemic will not be visible until the government's furlough scheme ends in October.

Across the UK, 74,000 people lost their jobs last month alone. Joel Hills, ITV News Business and Economics Editor, says: "The ONS numbers do not capture the raft of redundencies recently announced."

An empty stretch A194 near South Shields, at the height of the lockdown. Credit: PA Images

The ONS figures also reveal that between April 2019 and March 2020, the average working week in the North East fell to 30.5 hours, the lowest in the UK.

Nationally, the numbers of hours worked has fallen by almost 17% since the start of the pandemic. Analysts say the decreases shows the impact the lockdown is having on the economy.

Labour's Bridget Phillipson, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Houghton & Sunderland South MP, said there were "warning signs across the economy."

Jonathan Walker, assistant director at the North East England Chamber of Commerce, says: "Today’s figures largely show a continuation of what we saw last month with our unemployment rate continuing to be one of the highest in the country and reflecting the problem of regional economic disparities."

Economists say the number of job vacancies is another test of how well the economy is doing. In the North East, high levels of unemployment and comparatively few job opportunities makes finding work harder than elsewhere in the UK.

The Centre for Cities, an independent think-tank, says that compeition for jobs in Middlesbrough and Sunderland has doubled since this year.

In Cambridge, Oxford and Reading, the number of candidates applying for roles has increased by approximately 30%.