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East Midlands Chamber News

East Midlands jobs market bounces back strongly as key industries for region reopen – but skills issues persist, says Chamber

The jobs market in the East Midlands continues to bounce back strongly – with the proportion of people out of work now below the national average for only the second time during the pandemic.

The unemployment rate for the period between April and June 2021 was 4.3%, compared to 4.7% for the UK, according to the latest labour market figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It was the fourth lowest regional rate in the country and marks a 0.6% reduction on the 4.9% reported last month for March to May.

The East Midlands unemployment rate has consistently been above the national average since April, only once previously dropping 0.1% below for the period between June and August last year, when restrictions eased. Its 5.9% pandemic peak was 0.8% above the UK figure.

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “Throughout this pandemic, the East Midlands has been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 as industries that are heavily represented in our economy – including hospitality, tourism and retail – were forced to close.

“As lockdown has been gradually lifted, it’s no surprise to see more people return to work, with more positive news regarding this expected in the coming months as the period in which almost all restrictions were removed is reflected in future statistics.

“It also proves what we have said all along in that those hardest-hit industries have always remained viable in a fully open and functioning economy.

“These statistics also reflect the results of the Chamber’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) for Q2 2021, in which a net 20% of East Midlands businesses increased their headcount in the three months to June and a net 41% expected to hire more people over the next quarter.”

Skills shortages continue to put a drag on economic recovery

UK job vacancies also hit a record 953,000 in the three months to July, the ONS data reported.

But while payrolls rose by 182,000 between June and July, the total of 28.9 million remains 201,000 lower than pre-pandemic.

Scott added: “The record number of vacancies confirm the ongoing recruitment difficulties many businesses tell us they are facing as a result of the deep-rooted squeeze on labour supply from the impact of Covid and Brexit.

“Despite the positive trajectory for business confidence in our QES, 62% of firms that tried to recruit – which accounted for three in five businesses – reported difficulties in finding people with the required skills across a wide range of roles.

“Although the changes to self-isolation rules will help, staff shortages may persistently weigh on economic activity.

“More needs to be done to ensure businesses have access to skills when these can’t be recruited locally – including access to rapid and agile training and re-skilling opportunities for adults in the workforce, and a more flexible immigration system that allows firms to access the high and low-skilled workers they need.”

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