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East Midlands Chamber News

East Midlands unemployment rate continues to fall as economy gradually reopens – but furlough scheme must be extended, says Chamber

More people in the East Midlands are returning to work, according to the latest Government figures.

The unemployment rate reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) fell to 4.8% in the February to April period this year, down 0.4% compared to the previous three-month period and only 0.1% above the UK average.

However, it remains 0.9% higher than the unemployment rate for the same quarter in 2020.

Nationally, the number of job vacancies in March to May this year was 758,000 – just 27,000 below pre-pandemic levels.

Positive news for East Midlands jobs market

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “The jobs market appears to be moving in the right direction, with yet another decline in the unemployment rate alongside an increasing number of vacancies and people on payroll.

“For much of the pandemic, the East Midlands has suffered disproportionately, with a significantly greater proportion of people in our region out of work than across the UK, so it’s a relief to see the gap being narrowed.

“This trend no doubt reflects the reopening of outdoor hospitality towards the end of this period, on 12 April, as well as the greater resilience of our manufacturers to both the ongoing restrictions and post-Brexit trade changes.

“We’d expect to see further positive news for the three-month period to May, as step three of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown commenced, and more people came out of furlough.

East Midlands Chamber survey shows confidence is returning strongly

“Our latest Quarterly Economic Survey for Q2 2021 shows that a net of one in five businesses in the East Midlands increased their headcount during this period*, while a net 41% expect to hire more people over the coming three months – with only 3% anticipating a decrease.  

“This is clearly very positive news and also comes with big expectations of confidence in turnover (a net 62% of businesses expect this to increase) and profitability (a net 41% believe it will rise).

“The latest ONS data again shows the huge impact of the pandemic on young people, with the unemployment rate for 16 to 24-year-olds at 13.2%, but we’re delighted with the take-up among businesses of the Kickstart scheme, which creates Government-funded six-month work placements for people in this age group who are on Universal Credit or at risk of long-term unemployment.

“So far, the Chamber has helped about 500 young people find employment, with another 1,400 vacancies, among more than 700 businesses.

“However, as yesterday’s announcement that stage four of the roadmap will be delayed for four weeks also demonstrates, we can’t get complacent and sectors such as hospitality, events and leisure will continue to suffer from reduced capacity or complete closure – which in turn has an impact on jobs.

“This means it’s crucial the Chancellor postpones the tapering of furlough, which is due to commence on 1 July, for the duration of the roadmap delay, while grants would also help many of these businesses that have lost both expenditure and expected income.”

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