East Anglia: Region leads the way out of recession

John Dugmore

John Dugmore - Credit: Archant

On the day after Chancellor George Osborne said there was evidence that the British economy was “turning the corner” out of recession, there is new evidence that East Anglia is leading the way towards recovery.

This region – along with the North West – has the largest number of employers looking at positive news in the jobs market according to a new quarterly survey from employment specialists Manpower.

The Eastern region has a positive ratio of 14% – 14% more businesses are expecting to take on workers than lay them off over the next three months.

The key sectors that are expecting to see an increase are finance and business services, and manufacturing – with an emphasis on new and green technologies.

The news of the survey comes on the day that Willis, one of the largest insurance companies in the country, announced plans to expand its operations in Ipswich.

James Hick from Manpower said the East of England had been leading the way for the country for several quarters – and the latest figures confirmed it was still driving the recovery.

“We’ve been seeing very positive figures for the East of England since the middle of 2012, and this is continuing.

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“With the kind of industries we are seeing in the region, it is in a strong position to take advantage of the changes to the economy.”

Business organisations in both Suffolk and Essex said the survey reflected what they had heard from their members.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Dugmore said: “This is clearly encouraging news and reflects the hard work and commitment being put in by firms across the county.

“Businesses tell us on a regular basis that they are looking to grow and take on new staff as the economy recovers and we see growth on a regular basis.

“It does remain a challenging time though and those challenges mean businesses quite rightly need the right people in the right jobs at the right time.”

Across the county border there was a similar view from David Burch at the Essex chamber: “The Manpower survey is very much in line with what our members are telling us.

“We are getting a more positive message from businesses in many sectors. We have not surveyed particularly on employment prospects, but if firms are feeling more confident they are more likely to be taking on staff.”

He said the proximity to Europe and major ports meant that the health of the Eurozone was very important.

“That is still quite fragile, but an increasing number of businesses are looking at more global markets and that is another good sign looking ahead to the future,” Mr Burch added.

Richard Smith, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for economic development, said: “Its fantastic to see the East leading the way in regards to the creation of job opportunities.

“There is certainly a great deal of work going on to encourage and support businesses to grow and develop their workforce here in Suffolk.

“We have a growing energy sector and a strong food, drink and tourism industry that is providing a vast range of opportunities in addition to the recent drive in promoting apprenticeship and internship schemes in the county.”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer was enthused by the findings of the survey.

He said: “This is good news and further evidence that the economy is turning the corner. MPs and Conservative councils across the east are determined to build a globally competitive, high value, highly skilled economy in our region and this survey shows we are on the right track.

“It has been my contention since 2010 that East Anglia should strive to be the California of Europe: with this kind of news coming thick and fast, more and more people are beginning to see that it is a realistic aspiration.”

However Labour candidate for South Suffolk Jane Basham was not so impressed – pointing out that many people still felt insecure about their work and that many jobs were now only part-time.

She said: “I welcome any good news for Suffolk but hard working people are telling me their standard of living and job prospects are diminishing, so I would err caution in respect of this report.

“While there is reference to Business and Finance in terms of growth it seems much of the growth is in areas like Hotel and Manufacturing.

“These are often low paid; unskilled roles with little training opportunities.

“The other challenge for people in rural areas being able to access work is the availability of rural transport – that continues to be cut.

“I would like to see a breakdown of exactly where these jobs are (Suffolk not just East of England) along with some analysis from the businesses who contributed about their commitment to training.”