Jonathan Insley, Senior Associate in Birketts’ Employment Team said:

“Latest figures released on 26 January 2021 by the Office of National Statistics give further insight into the continuing economic impact in this region.

The ONS data shows that 4.8% of those in the Eastern region were without a job between September to November 2020, which represents small drop from 4.9% in the previous three-month period for those aged between 16 and 64.  Unsurprisingly, the figures are significantly higher when compared to the same period in the previous year (3.3%) due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  To put these into further context, these latest unemployment figures for this region running slightly less than the overall UK unemployment rate of 5% in the most recently published data.

The data also shows disparity between men and women in the period September to November 2020 when compared to the previous period. Where the employment percentage rate has increased among men (81.5 to 81.8%) it has decreased for women (72.9% to 72.1%).  Those women in the region who were economically inactive grew to 24% whilst that trend was not seen in men – where it remained the same (at 14.3%).  The unemployment percentage rates increased for women (4.9% to 5.1%) which has followed an upward trend throughout 2020.  In contrast, the unemployment percentage rates fell slightly for men (to 4.6% from 4.9%) between September and November 2020, indicating a worsening impact for women in the Eastern region.

The unemployment percentage figures for the period between August to October 2020 would have been influenced by many employers already having made their staffing decisions where they were expecting the Government’s furlough scheme to end in October 2020, and so prior to the announcement of the extension to the Government’s furlough scheme.  The fact that there was a small drop in the period September to November 2020 in the unemployment percentage rate may be accounted for to some extent by the extended furlough scheme and so have the impact of limiting the impact of further job losses.  That is to be welcomed but does give an indication that when the furlough scheme finally ends, unfortunately, unemployment in the Eastern region is then likely to rise further, with the indications that women may be impacted to a greater extent.

In addition, the ONS data shows that economic activity rates in the East of England dropped between September to November 2020 compared to the previous three month period (81.1% to 80.8%), whilst economic inactivity rates rose over the same period (18.9% to 19.2%) for those aged between 16 and 64.  It should be noted that England’s second lockdown fell within this time period and so a drop in activity is not to be unexpected, whilst the data does not yet show the picture for December 2020 and January 2021.

Overall, economic conditions remain difficult in the Eastern region, an area comprised of many SME’s, who have been hard hit by the pandemic.  Those larger regional businesses operating in the Eastern region, who would have had some ability to be more resilient, also continue to be impacted with many having considered undertaking a range of cost cutting measures and redundancies. These figures therefore reflect that recovery is unlikely to be easy in the Eastern region in common with many other parts of the UK.  It is hoped that the outlook is improved by way of Government intervention and support in this region over the coming months to assist affected businesses in rebuilding so that the economy in the Eastern region can return to a strong position.”