NEW Employment Minister Mark Hoban will soon visit the North East to hold talks with business leaders as the region’s unemployment rate remains the highest nationwide.
The Peterlee-born minister said he would coming to the region in November and would also be seeing some of the Government’s employment schemes in action.
His comments came as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) yesterday said unemployment in the region fell by 11,000 between May and July to 134,000. But the jobless rate was 10.4%, the highest in any part of the country. Unemployment was down 4,000 year on year.
The number of people in jobs went up to 1.159m, a rise of 12,000 year-on-year, and up 1,000 on the latest period. The claimant count was down 200 to 93,500 in August, but up 5,600 compared to the same period last year.
Nationally, the Olympics is thought to have helped drive a further fall in unemployment after another leap in the number of people in work. The jobless total fell by 7,000 in the quarter to July to 2.59m, an unemployment rate of 8.1%.
The Northern TUC also said it was concerned by a continued decline in average wages for full-time workers in the North East – with official figures showing the average full-time worker in the region now paid £6 less per week than 12 months ago.
For male full-time time workers the decline in wages has been even more stark with full-time pay now £20 per week less than a year ago, said the Northern TUC. It also said Wansbeck had 26 jobseekers for every vacancy.
Mr Hoban said: “Unemployment remains a challenge in the North East.
“But the claimant count in the North East fell in this period and employment has gone up by 12,000 over the last year.”
He said developments led by Nissan at its Washington plant and train builder Hitachi, which is building a new facility in Newton Aycliffe, in County Durham, and local enterprise zones would help.
The Tory minister added: “I hope to come to the North East in November to meet business leaders and to also visit some of the department’s programmes in the North East, which are aimed at tackling some of the challenges that the region faces.”
Labour MP Ian Lavery, who represents Wansbeck, said he would be writing to Mr Hoban to invite the minister to his constituency.
“It’s as if we don’t exist in Wansbeck. The figures are worsening,” said Mr Lavery.
Northern TUC regional secretary Kevin Rowan said: “The North East is still one of the hardest places to find work in the country. Of the few jobs being created many are low-paid, low-skilled and insecure. This is not a recipe for a sustained recovery. The drop in wages is another serious squeeze on working people at a time when many can’t afford it.
Ross Smith, director of policy at the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), said it was encouraging that employment was up to its highest point in two years and growing slightly quicker than for the UK as a whole year-on-year.