James Ramsbotham, NECC chief executive tells Channel 4 News that while unemployment is still high, the north east export rate is almost twice that of the UK average, providing some reasons to be cheerful.
Gross weekly pay – £451.8
JSA claimants – 7.4 per cent / 4.1 per cent UK average
Vacancies per 10,000 ppl – 61
Unfilled jobcentre vacancies per 10,000 – 9.3
Unemployment – 10.8 per cent / 8.4 per cent UK average
James Ramsbotham, NECC Chief Executive on the BCC quarterly economic survey: “This is the first time we have seen such positive indicators in the QES since before the recession took hold in 2008 and show a marked upturn on the weak and imbalanced growth seen throughout 2010 and 2011.
“It would be naïve to suggest these figures signal the beginning of a significant upturn. The euro crisis appears to have eased, but there are no guarantees this will not have in the next 12 months and another round of public sector cuts will create further challenges for the North East. But these figures show the underlying strength of our firms and give a basis for renewed confidence.”
James Ramsbotham, NECC Chief Executive: If there is one message that has been drilled home in the past few weeks it is that it is far from grim up north.
We’re the only region to see improvement in our unemployment levels as well as being the only one to have a positive balance of trade in export markets and we remain on course for our second record-breaking year in a row operating in overseas markets.
It is excellent news that for the second month in a row we have seen a fall in the number of unemployed people in the north east and significantly we appear to be closing the gap on the rest of the UK.
But it is important that we don’t get carried away. I think everyone in the region has greeted this news with a slightly cautious welcome, as we’re still bracing ourselves for the full impact of the public sector cutbacks.
‘Mismatch in skills’
Our own survey data demonstrates a small increase in private sector recruitment in the second quarter of 2011 onwards, which is mostly driven by manufacturing, but falls way short of being enough to offset public sector cuts. The mismatch in skills between those coming out of public sector and the number of manufacturing and engineering vacancies we have in the region points to a need to make sure other sectors recover quicker.
This aside, the upturn in unemployment levels does reflect increasing business positivity from our membership.
Manufacturing and engineering
Our manufacturing and engineering sectors continue to provide the foundations for our economic recovery and along with our healthy process industry – which of course includes the Tees Valley’s chemical, petrochemical and pharmaceutical industry – is the key driver for our excellent export performance.
Nissan is another major factor in our export factor and the company has, in recent years and throughout its 25 years in the region, demonstrated a remarkable commitment to the north east.
The importance of Nissan to the regional economy cannot be underestimated. For every person employed by the company another four workers are supported in Nissan’s supply chain and with employment at the plant reaching a record high this is another welcome achievement.
This good employment news must be weighed against the sad news that Sanofi is to close its Fawdon plant with the loss of 400 jobs and the 515 jobs that are being lost at Rio Tinto Alcan in Northumberland. While we welcome the good news, our sympathies lie with the people affected by those announcements.
Rise in exports
As I mentioned earlier our export performance remains in rude health. Exports in quarter four totaled £3.6m, which represents an increase of 9 per cent on the previous quarter. Nationally, exports rose 5 per cent.
The top two exporting sectors in the north east are machinery and transport, and chemicals.
And we’re continuing to grow. Exports to eastern Europe grew 43 per cent from 2010-11, exports to north America grew 38 per cent and exports to the Middle East grew 30 per cent from the same period.
North east ‘no longer a black spot’
These are significant figures for a region that has historically been viewed as somewhat of a black-spot in the country’s economic picture.
Our undoubted message to the government now is look at what we are doing with a fraction of the infrastructure investment enjoyed in the south east of the country – with a little more support we could be delivering so much more for UK Plc.
The north east is not a problem for the rest of the country to solve – it is an untapped resource bursting with potential.