Unemployment stats show region continues to be disproportionately impacted by lockdown restrictions, says Chamber

 Unemployment stats show region continues to be disproportionately impacted by lockdown restrictions, says Chamber

The East Midlands unemployment rate is once more above the national average, according to the latest figures.

Between October and December 2021, the region’s unemployment rate was 5.9%, up from 5.6% within the three months to November, based on the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This was above the national average of 5.1% and also the fourth highest rate of all UK regions, behind London (7%), its northern border East (6.5%) and West Midlands (6.1%).

The national figure – representing 1.74 million people – may be the highest in almost 5 years, with 726,000 fewer people currently around the payroll during this period compared to pre-pandemic.

Almost three-fifths of this fall (425,000 people) were aged 16 to 25.

Commenting around the figures, East Midlands Chamber Leader Scott Knowles said: “This is the fifth month in a row in which the unemployment rate has risen for the East Midlands and the fact it is now 2.1% above pre-pandemic levels is clearly a major concern.

“Our region is suffering a lot more than most others because we have borne the brunt of local lockdown restrictions. Leicester continues to be under the harshest restrictions for almost all the past 11 months, while Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire were also placed into the highest tiers during the period these ONS figures cover.

“The Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey for Q4 2021 showed a net 6% of businesses in the East Midlands decreased their workforce. While an internet 16% expected to increase headcount over the first quarter of 2021, these intentions might have been revised given the national lockdown imposed since then.

“Given how our local economy is reliant on industries such as hospitality, retail and tourism – sectors which are among the worst affected – it shows precisely how crucial the Job Retention Scheme is. While the Government’s roadmap to ending lockdown is welcomed, it’s incredibly important the Chancellor announces a furlough extension in next week’s Budget.

“Young people continue to be disproportionately impacted by unemployment even though the Kickstart scheme – in which the Chamber has already helped to produce hundreds of new six-month placements as a gateway organisation – is a great initiative, a longer-term solution will be needed to ensure we don’t lose an era from the workforce.

“Ultimately, we won’t see a reversal of the unemployment trend until our economy is fully open and functioning as normal.

“The principle of caution in how we exit lockdown is understandable given the events of summer 2021 and the have to meet the Prime Minister’s promise for this move to be ‘irreversible’, but hopefully figures like today are a stark reminder of the damage being carried out to our economy – meaning it’s important we meet the reopening dates provided this week.”

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