17 Jan 2023

East Midlands unemployment rate remains low but Chamber research warns this could be set to rise

The proportion of working-age people in the East Midlands who are not in jobs rose slightly from 3.3% to 3.4% in the three months to November, new figures show.

The region’s unemployment rate – which hit a record low of 2.4% in summer 2022 before steadily climbing since – remained below the UK average of 3.7%, according to the Office for National Statistics’ latest regional labour market data published today (17 January).

Meanwhile, 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 by one-tenth of a percentage point to 22.3% but this remains near record highs.

East Midlands Chamber research shows decline in recruitment

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “After an upwards trajectory in the level of unemployment since the summer – although against a context of still being at historically low levels – it is reassuring to see this curve begin to flatten in recent months.

“However, 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 plateau but there are measures the Government can take to support businesses to develop a skills base fit for 21st century industry.

Government must support businesses to invest in people

“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.”

To read the Chamber’s Business Manifesto for Growth, A Centre of Trading Excellence, visit www.emc-dnl.co.uk/manifesto