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East Midlands Chamber News

Latest ONS employment statistics show uneven regional impact of lockdown restrictions, says East Midlands Chamber

The UK unemployment rate has risen to 5% nationally, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – with the 1.72 million people out of work the highest level in five years.

The figure for September to November 2020 is up from 4.9% in the three months to October.

It represented a rise of 418,000 people compared to the same period a year earlier, when the unemployment rate was 3.8%, and the biggest increase since late 2009.

East Midlands unemployment rate far higher than national average

In the East Midlands, the unemployment rate for people aged 16 to 64 was 5.6% - six-tenths of a percentage point above the national average and the fourth highest region.

This represented a 0.3% increase in the unemployment rate compared to the August to October period.

Responding to the figures, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) chief executive Scott Knowles said: “The continued rise in unemployment clearly illustrates the damage our economy is enduring as we stagger from one lockdown to another.

“This period reflects the onset of the second national lockdown, in which industries such as hospitality were shut down and the knock-on impact of other sectors was felt, and it’s concerning to see the East Midlands unemployment rate so much higher than the national average.

“The ONS report shows the East Midlands had the highest proportion of production-based jobs at 12.5%, while we also know it has a heavy reliance on sectors such as hospitality, retail and tourism. With manufacturing just behind hospitality as the worst-hit industry for jobs, it’s clear that lockdown restrictions – even when national in scope – are far from proportionate in their impact on regions.

East Midlands Chamber QES highlights employment issues

“The Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey for Q4 2020, conducted during this same November period, showed a net 6% of businesses in the East Midlands decreased their workforce. While a net 16% expected to increase headcount over the first quarter of 2021, these intentions may well have been revised given the stricter conditions imposed since.

“We can only empathise with the Government’s unenviable responsibility to protect public health and its extension of the Job Retention Scheme until the end of April is welcomed, but these latest ONS figures highlight the need for more targeted financial support to areas and industries that wear the deepest scars of restrictions.

“We also know these numbers are only going to get worse as the reporting period is already well out of date – having been followed by tiered lockdowns, in which the East Midlands was eventually placed under the strictest restrictions, and a third national lockdown.

“Businesses are still navigating a minefield as the economy has been brought to a virtual standstill and, while there is hope in the vaccine rollout and EU trade deal agreement, it’s important the Government communicates effectively with businesses how it plans to eventually ease restrictions – and get the economy moving once more.”

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