Most of the rest of the North and Midlands suffer higher than average unemployment rates, adding to a picture of a seriously unbalanced economy.
Yesterday’s worse than expected unemployment figures are further evidence that the economy remains perched precariously.
Unemployment was up by 38,000, while the overall rate inched up fractionally to 7.9 per cent of the workforce, (now some 2.4 million workers). However, this disguises marked variations across the country.
In the South East of England, unemployment is at 5.8 per cent. Trek 200 miles up the M1, however, and the jobless rate in the North East rises to 10 per cent of the workforce.
Most of the rest of the North and Midlands suffer higher than average unemployment rates too, adding to a picture of a seriously unbalanced economy where policy prescriptions for one area may not be appropriate for another.
Chancellor George Osborne called the unemployment figures “disappointing” before predictably reaching into his cavernous bag of excuses to blame “what is going on in the world economy and with world markets”.
But he cannot say he wasn’t warned about the alarming differentials in regional employment.
Earlier this week the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reported a marked gap between business confidence in the north of England and the south.
Their Quarterly Labour Market Outlook uses a net employment index to measure the difference between the proportion of employers who intend to increase total staffing levels over the next three months and those set to decrease them.
Their latest findings show business confidence in the south of England is +10 across all sectors, while the balance for the north is a paltry -6.
Furthermore, it is manufacturers who are particularly glum; bad news for the West Midlands in particular. As the report notes: “The fall in confidence is particularly marked in the manufacturing sector, which has decreased to +11 from +32 three months ago”.
Meanwhile, analysis by the TUC points to a “jobs gap” between the number of people currently employed minus employment levels on the eve of the recession in December 2007.
Its analysts reckon we have 158,000 fewer jobs across the country as a whole but employment is actually up 122,000 (+3.3 per cent) in London. The North West and Yorkshire & Humber regions, meanwhile, have lost 60,000 jobs a-piece.
After failing to secure Labour’s tentative recovery, George Osborne continues his faltering, slow motion attempt to steer a path to growth, albeit with the prospect of a “jobless recovery” becoming a reality for millions – depending on where you live.
So for many parts of the country there are precious few signs of the “green shoots of recovery” that Osborne’s predecessor Norman Lamont was once said to have observed during the last Tory recession in the early 90s.
Unfortunately, the further away you live from London and the South East the more likely you are to see frozen ground rather than green shoots.