More pain ahead as East's stark jobless numbers rise, expert warns

General view of the Job Centre Plus on Benalder St in Glasgow, as figures released today show that u

Employment expert Jonathan Insley warns that unemployment in East Anglia is likely to get worse - Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Unemployment is likely to rise still further in the East of England - and women are likely to bear the brunt as job losses rise, an employment expert has warned.

Jonathan Insley, senior associate in regional law firm Birketts' employment team, said latest government figures revealed an emerging picture of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show a slight drop in joblessness in the eastern region for the period between September and November 2020 compared to the previous three months at 4.8% compared to 4.9%, he admitted.

But year-on-year, they were "significantly" higher than the 3.3% rate recorded in the same period in 2019 - and were from before key changes to the government's furlough scheme, he said.

"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," he added.

But he pointed out that 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 - before it announced an extension to the scheme to the end of April 2020.

"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," he said.  

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"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."

Latest data shows that the proportion of women in the region classed as "economically inactive" grew to 24% and while the employment rate for men has risen slightly from 81.5% to 81.8%, it has fallen for women from 72.9% to 72.1%, he said. 

Meanwhile. the unemployment rates increased for women (4.9% to 5.1%) after an upward trend throughout 2020.  In contrast, the unemployment  rates among men fell from 4.9% to 4.6% between September and November 2020 - indicating a worsening impact for the region's women.  

"Overall, economic conditions remain difficult in the eastern region - an area comprised of many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who have been hard hit by the pandemic," said Mr Insley.

"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."

The figures suggested recovery is unlikely to be easy in the eastern region in common with many other parts of the UK, he said. 

"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.”