Is it really grim up North?
While some regions in the UK were encouraged by unemployment figures rising by 50,000 in three months, there were wasn’t much optimism in the North, which continues to have the highest unemployment in the country.
Trade union Unison’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, pointed out the bigger economic picture shows that any talk of growth is premature. In areas such as Yorkshire and Humberside, as well as the West Midlands, unemployment is not only among the highest in the UK, but it’s still going up.
The North/South divide
The North-South divide doesn’t appear to be a myth after all. ONS figures from September reveal that in the North East of England 10.4% of people were unemployed, followed by Yorkshire/Humber (10%) and the North West (9%). It wasn’t much better in the East Midlands and West Midlands, which stood at 8.3% and 8.8% respectively.
These figures are way higher than the South East at 6.3%, the South West (5.7%) and the East (6.5%). However, what’s notable is that unemployment in London stood at 8.9%, comparable to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland at 8.2%-8.9%, though still lower than the North.
Even deputy prime minister Nick Clegg recently admitted the level of unemployment in northern cities such as Hull – where there are roughly 38 applicants to every job vacancy – is depressing.
A quick flick back at the unemployment roll-call over past few years shows pretty much the same pattern, with the North East at 11.7% back in December 2011, much worse than the average of 8.3% across the country.
In the 1990s recession, the North was hit worst, too, with male unemployment in 1991 at 17.2%, according to University of Portsmouth figures, compared with the South East (excluding London) at 9.2%.
Even pre-recession in 2005, unemployment was higher at 5.7% in the North East and 4.4% in the North West, compared with 3.7% and 3.2% in the South East and South West respectively, according to Nomis.
Public and private sector losses
The North East’s problem is believed to reflect its dependency on direct public sector employment – accounting for a quarter of jobs. The Government’s austerity measures, which have included slashing public sector jobs, have contributed and this may get worse. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has warned that the North East will be among the worst-hit from the 710,000 public sector job losses expected by 2017.
Youth unemployment is particularly serious in the North, and the number of people in long-term unemployment in the region is rising, too, with more people out of work for a year than at any time since the 1990s. In fact, some six of the 20 areas of highest rates of long-term joblessness and lowest return-to-work rates are in the North.
With construction, manufacturing, retail, hospitality and leisure the worst hit industries nationally, there have been the inevitable private sector closures, too.
It’s not all doom and gloom
It’s not all bad news, though. At Jaguar Land Rover on Merseyside, some 1,000 new jobs have been created at the plant, which has trebled its workforce in the past three years.
The Government has also pledged multimillion-pound funding to ensure engineering giant Siemens goes ahead with a proposed new wind-turbine factory in Hull. Similarly, the BBC has created 2,300 jobs at MediaCityUK in Salford Quays and has relocated work to regional offices in Leeds, Hull, Sheffield and Newcastle.
And while it’s clear the North is struggling with ongoing unemployment problems, the South is also suffering. The latest blow is Ford has scrapping 1,500 jobs at its Southampton and Dagenham plants.
Indeed, if the Totaljobs.com barometer is anything to go by, competition for jobs is higher in the south. Its September figures show that in the North East the 4,113 jobs that were posted on the site attracted 89,988 applications (21 per job), while in the North West there were 12,987 jobs attracting 257,417 applications (19 per job).
That might sound grim, but the same barometer shows that in the South East competition is even stronger, with 33,253 jobs attracting 1,108,124 applications (33 per job).