Regional jobs gulf opens as economy stumbles

A STARK unemployment gulf has opened up across the region as the economy stumbles, the Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Hull has emerged as the region’s jobless blackspot with nearly one in 12 people of working age in the city claiming out of work benefits.

But in other parts of the region – headed by rural districts of North Yorkshire – fewer than one in 50 people are on the dole queue, according to analysis of official statistics, which reveals dramatic differences in how Yorkshire copes in turbulent economic times.

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Ministers insist that by sticking to tough spending cuts they are giving the economy the best chance of recovering, but a Hull Labour MP last night warned of the dangers of “the scar of unemployment”.

Economist Paul Swinney from Centre for Cities think tank said the “stark variation” in jobseekers’ allowance claims across the region was striking.

“Hull not only has the highest claimant count within Yorkshire but out of all the cities we look at it also has the highest claimant count rate and has seen the largest increase since the start of the recession,” he said.

“The big issue for places like Hull is creating private sector jobs. We need policies in place that encourage businesses to create jobs.”

This month’s bleak figures showed the official unemployment level in Yorkshire and the Humber soared by 32,000 to 259,000 in the last quarter. Those statistics are only released at a regional level.

The number claiming jobseekers’ allowance is lower, but the figures reveal a more local picture.

In Hull, there are now 14,369 people claiming out of work benefits – 7.9 per cent of the city’s working age population. The figure is actually lower than its recent peak in February 2010, but it has been rising again recently. For male workers the picture is even bleaker. More than 10 per cent of working age men in Hull now claim the benefit.

The city faces being affected by the threat of 899 job losses at BAe Systems at nearby Brough, but could benefit from hundreds of jobs if energy giant Siemens agrees to build a wind turbine manufacturing plant at the city’s Alexandra Dock.

Hull North MP Diana Johnson, said: “The last dire figures showed 14,701 Hull job seekers chasing 930 local Job Centre Plus vacancies. Hull North had the worst figure in the country, with 49.9 applicants chasing every job.

“We need a change of direction for jobs and growth to get people back to work and off benefits, or the scar of unemployment will do long term damage to another generation of young people.

“At the moment we’re stuck in a vicious cycle. With more people out of work and on benefits it’s harder to get the deficit down.

“We’ve also been seeing worrying figures and forecasts for inflation, squeezed living standards and increasing poverty hitting especially hard in places like Hull.”

In North East Lincolnshire, 6.6 per cent of people are on jobseekers’ allowance, while in Bradford it is 5.6 per cent, in Doncaster 5.5 per cent and Rotherham 5.2 per cent. Many are areas which struggled with significant unemployment even during the boom years of the last decade.

In contrast, just 1.6 per cent of people in Richmondshire are on jobseekers’ allowance, and just 1.9 per cent in Ryedale.

In major cities the picture varies significantly – in York just 2.5 per cent of people claim the benefit, while in Leeds the figure is 4.3 per cent and in Sheffield 4.7 per cent.

Many of the worst hit areas have high numbers of jobs in the public sector which is being cut back.

A recent report by PwC calculated that 17,000 such jobs have been cut in Yorkshire in 12 months as the spending taps are turned off.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has repeatedly insisted there will be no return to “divisions” of the 1980s, and initiatives such as the £1.4billion Regional Growth Fund and a national insurance holiday for new firms are specifically targeted at areas like Yorkshire which have been reliant on public sector jobs.

With business leaders demanding more from the Government, Ministers have also promised extra measures in a Growth Review to be unveiled later this month when the Chancellor presents his Autumn Statement, in which he will provide an update on the state of the economy.

Richard Kendall, Manager of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The only way to send the figures back in the right direction is to grow our economy.

“We’re doing all we can to do this, particularly on our biggest opportunity – renewable energy.”