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 release includes data for the North East statistical region for the three-month period of May to July 2023. 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: “Despite a rise in the headline unemployment rate in the latest figures, the North East labour market continues to perform well, with both our employment and economic inactivity rates significantly improved on a year ago. That’s testament to North East businesses, who have performed remarkably, even in the face of wider uncertainty.”

The May to July employment total in the North East region was more than 49,000 higher than in the same period of 2022. The working age employment rate increased by 2.7 percentage points over the year, from around 71.4% to 74.1%, the largest increase among the nine English regions. The rise in employment was accompanied by a decrease of about 55,000 in the number of working age economically inactive people, who had been absent from the labour market a year earlier. The number of unemployed people in the North East increased by just over 9,000 in the year.

Helen Golightly continued: “The longer term figures give us cause for cautious optimism, but we need to keep a close eye on the latest figures to see whether the increase in unemployment is short term volatility or the start of a less positive trend. We know businesses are facing significant headwinds – including inflation, which is likely to remain high, and the expectation of further interest rate rises.

“As a region where retail is a hugely important sector, we also know the difficulties faced nationally by Wilko will be echoed for others in the industry, and the recent news of job losses and store closures will create a big hole in many of our regional high streets. It’s a reminder of how important it is to continue to support our local town centres and to focus on building the right environment for businesses to succeed, both now and for the long term.”

Further labour market analysis can be found on the North East Evidence Hub.