UNEMPLOYMENT in the North East fell by 10,000 as the region’s businesses welcomed one of the UK’s best performances.
Over the last three months the North East’s unemployment rate improved by the second highest outside of London, figures released yesterday show.
But, with 119,000 unemployed, the North East’s 9.1% jobless rate remains the UK’s highest despite the drop.
And there are today concerns the jobs good news may be down to increased Christmas employment and not a long-term trend.
Businesses were last night welcoming the news, with the North East Chamber of Commerce saying the figures were one of many positive signs for the regional economy.
Director of policy Ross Smith said: “It is fantastic to start the year with such a positive set of labour market figures, which continues the trend we saw throughout most of 2012.
“The ongoing steep fall in unemployment and rise in employment must be welcomed, with both standing at their best rate in the region since August 2010.
“The improvement in the North East figures continues to outpace the UK as a whole, closing the gap between the two.”
Union leaders took a more cautious approach. The TUC’s regional secretary Kevin Rowan warned that many Government cuts to public sector jobs were yet to take place.
He added: “While any drop in the number of jobseekers in the last quarter is welcome, we are yet to be convinced that the government is on a real and lasting path to recovery. We fear that once the end of temporary Christmas jobs are factored in, along with recently announced job losses from large, high- street retailers, many of the jobs figures won’t look good.”
Nationwide, a record number of people are in work after yet another fall in unemployment and a further dip in the numbers claiming jobseeker’s allowance.
Almost 30 million adults were in a job in the quarter to last November, up by more than half a million on the previous year. The figure, giving an employment rate of 71%, is the highest since records began in 1971.
Unemployment fell by 37,000 in the latest quarter to just under 2.5 million, the lowest since spring 2011.
Employment minister Mark Hoban welcomed the figures, saying employment had increased for 15 months. The UK employment rate is growing at almost double the rate of the US, and faster than any other G7 country, he said.
“These are very positive figures showing employment rising for 15 months and despite difficult economic circumstances, unemployment is lower than when this Government took office.
“It’s good to see long-term unemployment falling and the number of young people claiming jobseeker’s allowance dropping again, while the increase in vacancies shows there are jobs out there.”