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18 Apr 2023

Plenty more to do to tackle rising economic inactivity, says East Midlands Chamber as latest labour market data released

The unemployment rate in the East Midlands was 3.5% in the three months to February, according to the Office for National Statistics’ latest regional labour market figures published today (18 April).

This was unchanged from last month’s data, with the region still below the UK average of 3.8%.

There was a slight decline in 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 – which was down four-tenths of a percentage point to 21.9%.

However, this remains 0.8% above the UK average and above pre-Covid levels, having been 18.7% in the three months to March 2020.

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “The consistently low unemployment rate, like the recent ONS analysis showing the UK economy is heading off a widely-forecast recession, demonstrate the resilience of the East Midlands business community in protecting jobs despite the upheaval and cost pressures of the past year.

“The Chamber’s latest research suggests there is further optimism for what lies ahead, with our Quarterly Economic Survey for Q1 2023 showing a 7% net increase in the proportion of our region’s firms that have grown their workforce in the past three months, along with a 14% net increase in those that expect to add to headcount in the next three months.

“However, there is still a long way to go and this must start with tackling the economic inactivity problem that, despite a very slight decline in the latest data, continues to be a thorn in the sides of many employers.

“There are many reasons for this, including long-term sickness, increased caring responsibilities and early retirement.

Spring Budget didn’t go far enough in tackling economic inactivity

“While the Chancellor rightly identified rising economic inactivity as an economic priority in last month’s Spring Budget, the measures could have gone further and quicker.

“It is never too late to make significant interventions, though, and in our Business Manifesto for Growth, we have set out a list of policies we believe will make the required difference.

These include introducing flexible incentives for businesses that invest in staff training and bringing forward the introduction of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement to support retraining and the retainment of an older workforce.

“We must also tailor policies to recognise the diversity of people who are out of work and avoid a one-size-fits-all solution, while we would also like to see Government work with businesses to offer support and share best practice on what a flexible and inclusive workplace looks like as this is another vital ingredient in enticing people back to work.”

To read the Chamber’s Business Manifesto for Growth, A Centre of Trading Excellence, visit