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11 Dec 2022

East Midlands unemployment rate drops but Chamber research suggests it could soon rise again

After three months of climbing, the proportion of people out of work in the East Midlands has dropped from 3.5% to 3.3%.

The region’s unemployment rate remained below the UK average of 3.7% for the period between August and October this year, according to the latest regional labour market data from the Office for National Statistics.

After hitting a record low of 2.4% between April and June, the East Midlands rate had been steadily rising until this point.

The region’s economic inactivity rate – which measures the number of working-age people who have dropped out of the labour market for reasons such as retirement, caring duties, long-term ill health or studying – dropped slightly from 22.6% to 22.4% but this remains near record highs.

Rising economic inactivity rate and unemployment a concern

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “After a sharp upwards trajectory in the level of unemployment over recent months – although against a context of still being within historically low levels – it is reassuring to see a reversal of a worrying trend.

“Despite this, our own research suggests unemployment levels may not remain so low in the future. Our final Quarterly Economic Survey of the year, which ran throughout November, found there was an 8% decline from quarter to quarter in the proportion of East Midlands businesses that added to their workforce in the previous three months, while there was a similar drop-off in recruitment prospects over the coming three months.

“Clearly, the cost-of-doing-business crisis – led by rising costs in energy, interest rates, raw materials, people and fuel – has deeply affected business confidence to invest, and a lack of available skills in the labour market is now impacting significantly on firms’ ability to grow.

“While the slight decrease in the proportion of those people who have opted out of the workforce for various reasons is welcomed, this remains at a very high level and has helped to create the tightest labour market in years.

“This poses a major concern for the road ahead as our economy continues to stagnate but there are measures the Government can take to support businesses to develop a skills base fit for 21st century industry.

“In our Business Manifesto for Growth launched in Parliament last month, we propose a series of reforms around how businesses invest in their people.

“These include flexible incentives for business investment in staff training, expanding the use of the apprenticeship levy, bringing forward the introduction of the lifelong loan entitlement to support retraining and the retainment of an older workforce, and a comprehensive reform of the shortage occupation list to allow sectors facing urgent demand for skills to get what they need.

“In other words, this is about ‘getting the basics right’ – removing the day-to-day barriers for businesses and ensuring the basic building blocks of economic success are in place.”