Caroline Williams, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce CEO, tells Channel 4 News why male unemployment is higher than average in the county, and highlights the areas and sectors that are likely to grow.
Gross weekly pay – £461.60 / £500 UK average
JSA claimants – 3.7 per cent / 4.1 per cent UK average
Vacancies per 10,000 – 91 / 72 UK average
JSA claimants per unfilled vacancy – 4 / 5.7 UK average
Here at the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, given the results of the latest BCC Quarterly Economic Survey and what we hear day in, day out, from Norfolk business in the real economy, we were expecting a positive, if somewhat unimpressive, figure. The feeling of ‘guarded optimism’ that comes through in conversation with our members, and in most of the business surveys, suggest that the state of the economy may not be quite what the media or the number-crunchers at the Office for National Statistics believe.
Locally, a recent survey by Grant Thornton UK LLP highlighted that businesses in East Anglia are among the more optimistic in the UK when it comes to increasing profitability and exports over the next 12 months. This will also have a positive effect on jobs in the area.
Norfolk job creation:
– Broom Boats at Brundall, on the outskirts of Norwich, are manufacturers of luxury motor cruisers. Due to a strong export order book, their staffing levels have increased by 50 per cent over the past twelve months and they are actively recruiting more staff, including apprentices.
– Hugh J Boswell, commercial insurance brokers and financial advisors, are also experiencing growth in their business and are hoping to recruit up to five positions this year.
-Britannia Fire, a local fire extinguisher manufacturer, reported that they too have recently recruited staff for their Export Department.
Caroline Williams, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce CEO on the BCC’s quarterly economic survey: “It is encouraging to see that businesses are feeling more confidence at the start of 2012 than they were at the end of 2012. Norfolk businesses are showing optimism in both turnover and their expected profitability for the next quarter. Both sectors are advising that investments in plant, machinery and training are also expected to increase. However, the Norfolk economy is still facing huge challenges and the recovery is still too slow.
“Whilst the government has promised positive changes that will help businesses; improved transport infrastructure and de-regulations for example, they are yet to be become a reality. These medium and long term measures must be brought forward to help businesses grow and create jobs.
“Access to finance is still a real problem for many firms and more must be done to ensure that this doesn’t threaten recovery. We have been lobbying for the scrapping of the business rate increase of 5.6 per cent this month which we feel will exacerbate cash flow problems for many firms, but our voice has been ignored.”
Caroline Williams, Norflk jobs reporter: The east of England, and Norwich in particular, is bucking the national trend. Numerous surveys show that private sector business activity is rising above the UK national average, helped by a stronger services sector.
New business has also increased for the fourth month running, although the rate of expansion has slowed slightly. Experian ranked Norwich third in the east of England for the proportion of young high growth businesses based in the local authority area. And business start-ups in south Norfolk have recently been highlighted as one of the fastest growing in the country, with 402 new companies established in 2010.
High male unemployment
The male JSA unemployment rate is markedly higher than women in Norwich, at 6.4 per cent of working age males, than in the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) area (4.8 per cent), and nationally (5.6 per cent).
It is likely that Norwich’s relatively high levels of male unemployment is down to the steady loss of manufacturing jobs and the dominance of the service sector in Norwich, which claims a high proportion of employees (89 per cent).
Increase in job vacancies
In terms of employment opportunities, the number of vacancies notified to Jobcentre Plus has increased across the urban Norwich area. But compared to the January figures, the number of vacancies has fallen across Norwich areas; however vacancies increased across the LEP area, regionally and nationally.
Norwich has a lower ratio of JSA claimants to unfilled Jobcentre vacancies than nationally and it also has a higher number of unfilled vacancies per 10,000 working age population at 112 than the national average.
Richard Branson and ‘entrepreneurial education’
There is some hope for educating Norwich’s future employees in the form of a joint project between City College Norwich principal Dick Palmer and Sir Richard Branson – they are launching a major report aimed at boosting entrepreneurial education. The report highlights the need for a radical new approach to further education, with colleges not only giving young people vocational skills training, but also the capacity for ‘entrepreneurial learning’ which can ensure their success – and the success of UK plc.
Looking to the future, Norwich-based Bayer CropScience is to invest nearly £10m in new facilities which will be a source for job creation, hopefully this year. The Anglia division of one of the largest UK house builders has housing developments planned for the latter half of the year, while Flybe and franchise carrier Loganair is launching new routes from Norwich International airport – and will be creating 15 jobs for pilots, cabin crew and engineering staff.