12 Dec 2023

East Midlands unemployment rate remains among lowest in UK but Chamber research highlights continued technical skills shortages

The East Midlands’ unemployment rate has remained at 3.7% for the fifth month running, new figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

It puts the region near the top of the list for having a low proportion of over-16s out of work and significantly below the UK average of 4.2%.

The data, for the period between August and October 2023, means the region’s unemployment rate has now been under 4% for the past two years, having last been above the threshold in the three months to October 2021.

The economic inactivity rate for 16 to 64-year-olds – 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 – remained at 20.9% for the East Midlands for the third consecutive month, above a pre-pandemic trend around the 19% mark.

East Midlands Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey shows recruitment challenges persist

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “The fact our region’s unemployment rate has remained at a relatively low level for such a prolonged period is testament to the efforts and resilience of our region’s business community in the face of significant economic challenges.

“Rising economic inactivity has been one of the greatest concerns over the past couple of years as it led to a dwindling labour market, which has restricted capacity – and therefore the ability to grow, raise productivity and bring prices down.

“While this rate remains above pre-Covid levels, it’s pleasing to see this has now come down by about 2% throughout this year, giving firms more room to manoeuvre.

“However, our own research shows there is no room for complacency. Our Quarterly Economic Survey shows a net 7% of businesses have increased their workforce during the final three months of 2023, compared to a net 15% in the previous quarter – an indication of the tough trading challenges that persist. Over the next three months, a net 17% expect their workforce to expand in size, so prospects may improve.

“Many employers continue to face challenges with filling job vacancies. More than half (55%) of organisations attempted to recruit during Q4, and more than seven in 10 (72%) of these experienced problems in finding suitable staff. There are particular shortages to fill skilled manual and technical roles, as well as professional and managerial positions.”

Business Manifesto for Growth outlines need for investment in people and skills

East Midlands Chamber published its regional economic blueprint, titled A Centre of Trading Excellence: A Business Manifesto for Growth in the East Midlands and Beyond, in November last year, urging Government to focus on the “four Is” of investment, innovation, infrastructure and international trade.

It set out a list of policies to encourage businesses to invest in their people, including 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.

Scott added: “We really need a dedicated Government policy that supports companies to invest in their people, whether that be in upskilling their existing workforce or reskilling prospective employees to fill skills gaps.

“We must also tailor policies to recognise the diversity of people who are out of work and avoid a one-size-fits-all solution. 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 www.emc-dnl.co.uk/manifesto.