Area Focus: East Midlands

With 1,700 people applying for just 8 jobs at Costa coffee’s latest shop in Nottingham, the statistics might suggest that the jobs market in the East Midlands is in turmoil. But in reality, the story is much the same in the East Midlands as it is for the rest of the UK, as an almost static economy renders any growth unnoticeable.

With the UK economy expected to grow a meagre 0.7% in 2013, it comes as no surprise that there aren’t any major stories in favour of, or pertaining to a better or worse jobs market. The truth of the matter is, the UK jobs market is still in bad shape, and despite the odd statistical anomaly like the aforementioned Costa collateral, neither growth or decline is happening at any charged rate.

 

The big stories

One area that will provide a boost for the East Midlands is retail, which is the third most competitive sector in the region with regards to applications per job. Dragons’ den mogul Peter Jones recently purchased Leicester based camera-chain Jessops with his joint venture partner Hilco, who also recently acquired HMV. Hilco’s takeover of the latter is set to save 19 stores and hundreds of jobs across the Midlands, with every store in the major cities in the East Midlands remaining open.

Hilco’s involvement in both companies could see the beginning of a revival in high street retail across the Midlands and the UK. Totaljobs East Midlands sales director Dominic Harvey believes that HMV will take a different approach and revert to selling more specialised products: “Jessops and HMV rescue plans present a positive story. It’s like a flipside to the previous negative themes from the last few months – a fight back from retail. HMV are now planning to specialise rather than going too diverse, going back to doing just DVDs and music. I can see this becoming more common on the high street – rather than competing with the wide variety of choice on the internet they will become more specialist so that customers will feel the need to actually walk into the shop”.

A less positive story that has emerged from the East Midlands in 2013, is the restructuring of UK ethnic foods manufacturer S&A Foods, which will see the loss of 70 jobs in Derby. S&A foods managing director Des Kingsley said that, whilst regrettable, the restructure would enable the business to remain “competitive and sustainable” in an increasingly challenging trading environment.

 

Employment, unemployment and claimant figures

While the Office for National Statistics revealed a stagnant 0.2% decrease in the amount of unemployed people between November 2012 and January 2013 in the East Midlands, the regional statistic has dropped consistently over the last two quarters of 2012. Unemployment in the East Midlands stands at 178,000 with a rate of 7.7%, which is a steady improvement from 184,000 between August and October 2012 and 193,000 in May to July 2012.

With that said, the amount of people in employment is at its lowest since February 2012 with 2,121,000 in jobs compared with 2,135,000, 2,124,00 and 2,128,000 in the previous three quarters respectively. This, when taken into consideration with the fact that the employment rate has decreased by 0.3% and the population in the East Midlands has increased year-on-year since 2011, creates some surprising figures. These strange numbers could be attributed to the number of under-18 or over 65-year-olds increasing more than the number of 18-65 year-olds, or the number of people who don’t have a job but are not eligible for jobseekers allowance increasing due to changes in the way they are counted.

Things have certainly improved for the East Midlands in 2013, as the amount of jobs posted has increased compared with early 2012 while the competition for each job has eased. The first quarter of 2012 saw 19.6, 17.4 and 16.4 people applying for every job in January, February and March respectively, while 2013 registered 16.9, 15.3 and 15.0.

The amount of people claiming jobseekers allowance in the East Midlands makes up 4.6% of the entire UK total. 72, 183 men and 37, 586 women are claiming JSA, with the overall number standing at 109, 769. However, 3.8% of the entire East Midlands population is claiming JSA, which is 0.1% less than the regional average of 3.9%.

 

Sector movement

As stated by Dominic Harvey, the East Midlands is a diverse region and does not rely on any one sector such as the pottery and car manufacturing industries in the West Midlands. With that said, there is huge demand for engineering, manufacturing and utilities jobs, and despite having the largest amount of applicants, the applications for job figures stand at a reasonable 10.9.

George Osborne’s 2013 budget report could also open up opportunities for struggling industries such as construction and real estate with the new ‘help-to-buy’ scheme. First time buyers will be offered a 20% loan if they put down a 5% deposit on a property. Dominic Harvey believes that this could improve an already stable housing market in the region: “This new budget announcement could help improve the market further while providing opportunities for the waning construction industry and jobs in estate agencies – though this boost could pose a risk of an asset bubble in the future.”

Harvey also sees new opportunities for people with SIA or other security qualifications, as security firms are beginning to recruit in the run up to the festival season, but also revealed that the hospitality sector has been flat due to the prolonged bad weather.

 

Overview of the East Midlands

As outlined in the introduction, the jobs market in the East Midlands is not particularly negative, nor is it majorly positive. The UK is expected to increase its gross domestic product by 1% this year, and with economic growth predicted at 0.7%, most regions are showing signs of improvement, albeit slowly. However, with applications per job decreasing year-on-year, positive budget allocations and a possible resurgence in high street retail jobs, the future looks promising for the region.

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