The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Chief Executive, Helen Golightly OBE, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The data updates on key indicators within the Strategic Economic Plan.

Today’s release includes quarterly data for the North East region (for the period September to November 2022). The region includes the North East LEP area and Tees Valley.

Helen Golightly OBE, Chief Executive of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP), said: “The data released today shows that there has been an annual growth in employment of 1% and quarter increase of 0.4%. Whilst the North East remained at the bottom of the tables for overall employment and unemployment rates, we saw the second largest annual improvement in both these indicators amongst the nine English regions.

“We are seeing more people coming out of economic inactivity and into the labour market, with similar numbers finding work and moving to unemployed status, and actively seeking employment.

“This is probably an indication of the impact of higher costs of living with inflation at its highest level in recent years and people feeling the need to find ways of increasing their income.

“We can also see a drop off in demand for goods and services and for labour amongst businesses, particularly in smaller businesses. The latest regional vacancies data shows that online job adverts in the North East are only 5% higher than their pre-COVID benchmark, compared to 31% higher in November 2022. This indicates a declining confidence amongst businesses in the recruitment of new staff and will likely have contributed to an increase in those claiming out of work benefits in December.

“At this time, when people and businesses are focused on the cost of living and costs of doing business, it is notable that PAYE data released today saw pay rises averaging 6.4%. This was failing to keep pace with inflation caused by price increases in products including food and energy, which in real life terms sees a further net drop in incomes of 2.6% for the third quarter in a row. Private sector pay growth nationally was running at 7.2% compared with just 3.3% in the public sector.

“As we progress through the winter, the cost of living will continue to be an issue of concern for residents and employers and is likely to continue to impact on sectors of the economy which rely on discretionary spending. For example, entertainment and transport were the sectors which had seen the largest decline in employment in this quarter.”