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East Midlands Chamber News

Chamber comments on latest ONS employment statistics

New figures published today by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed the number of UK workers on the payroll fell by 649,000 between March and June.

The number of people claimed work-related benefits in June was 2.6 million.

Responding to the figures, Scott Knowles, Chief Executive of East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire), said: “The latest ONS figures make for concerning reading, but it’s important to remember that the water is significantly muddied by the Job Retention Scheme.

“What these statistics illustrate is only a partial picture of the employment situation engulfing the country during the Covid-19 crisis.

“In the East Midlands, there were 700,000 people on the furlough scheme at the end of May and, in our latest Quarterly Economic Survey, we found that 34% of businesses in the region planned to reduce their headcount in the next three months, compared to 29% nationally.

“This is very worrying and the higher proportion of potential job losses our region could bear may well reflect the high number of people in some lower-value roles in our manufacturing, retail, tourism and hospitality industries – all of which are more at risk as a result of Covid-19.

“However, we also know that we have sectors here that are performing strongly, including logistics, food manufacturing, IT and technology, with opportunities for businesses in these sectors to create new jobs to offset some of the losses.

“To protect as many jobs as possible, Government should look again at how it phases out the Job Retention Scheme, supporting more businesses to get through the uncertainty, while keeping people on their books.

“For the longer term, we need to think about how our region will continue to create jobs. The shape of the economy coming out of the pandemic is going to look very different to how it looked before, and those sectors that can grow will also need backing.

“For those who do unfortunately find themselves out of employment, we need to ensure they are given the support they need in the form of skills training to prepare them for jobs of the future.

“It will also be crucial to consider how these people physically access the locations where the new jobs are created, which underlines the importance of Government investment in transport and infrastructure.

“The latest ONS unemployment statistics just serve to underline further that we are in very messy and uncertain times economically. The more certainty and clarity that can be provided by the Government in its messages and policies, the quicker we will be able to move things in the right direction.”

In the East Midlands, the unemployment rate was 4% between March and June, representing 99,000 people.

The ONS regional statistics can be found by downloading a table here.