Warning as region faces eight-year haul to recover from recession

YORKSHIRE’S economy could take another eight years to recover from the economic crisis according to stark new analysis which will heighten fears of a growing North-South jobs divide.

Economic forecasters say it will be 2019 before employment levels in the region recover to pre-recession levels while London and the South East, which are less reliant on the public sector, will bounce back more quickly.

Doncaster, Barnsley and North Lincolnshire are identified as likely to have among the slowest recoveries in the country.

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The revelation comes as the Yorkshire Post urges Chancellor George Osborne to adopt six of our Give us a Fair Deal policy proposals in Tuesday’s Autumn Statement in order to give the region’s economy a boost.

With the Government desperate to stimulate growth, electrifying trans-Pennine rail routes, rolling out superfast broadband to every home, allowing Humber Bridge tolls to be axed, extending a National Insurance holiday for new firms, putting more money into the Regional Growth Fund and backing Yorkshire’s tourism industry with a small amount of funding could all help to create private sector jobs to offset the loss of public sector posts.

The Chancellor is under intense pressure to produce a package of measures to revive the economy, with the Office for Budget Responsibility expected to downgrade its forecasts for growth next week.

But research by economic forecasters Oxford Economics for the IPPR North think-tank suggests the jobs market in Yorkshire will take many years to recover from the economic crisis.

Official statistics show that there are currently 2,391,000 people in work in Yorkshire – 85,000 down from a peak of 2,476,000 in 2008. Unemployment in the region also rose by 51,000 in the last quarter to stand at an 18-year high.

A “recovery index” says Harrogate, Craven, Leeds and York are best placed to recover quickly, while Doncaster, Barnsley and North Lincolnshire are among the bottom 50 areas of the country for their prospects.

IPPR North has called on Mr Osborne to focus on boosting employment in “underperforming” regions with targeted interventions to drive growth in areas most affected by the downturn if the Government is to achieve its goal of rebalancing the economy by closing the North-South divide.

It is urging the Chancellor to bring forward infrastructure spending, set up a regional investment bank, guarantee a minimum wage job to anyone unemployed for more than 12 months in hard-hit areas, set up innovation centres and giving targeted tax incentive for research and development.

Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, said: “The situation outside of London and the South East isn’t looking good and it’s going to be 2019 before employment levels are back to their 2008 levels in Yorkshire and Humber. But there are things that can be done right now to help.”

Ministers are under intense pressure to help to revive the economy and yesterday announced a £1bn fund to get young people into work, while the £1.4bn Regional Growth Fund and creation of business-friendly Enterprise Zones in Leeds, South Yorkshire and the Humber are also aimed at areas which are facing large numbers of public sector job losses.

The Government, which says the economy is suffering because of the eurozone crisis while critics blame the pace of spending cuts, has boosted apprenticeships and launched a drive to get the long-term unemployed back to work.

More measures have been promised in Tuesday’s Autumn Statement by the Chancellor, and today the Yorkshire Post – backed by business leaders, transport bosses and MPs – is urging Ministers to back six of the measures advocated in our Give us a Fair Deal campaign.

Mr Osborne is urged to commit to electrify trans-Pennine rail routes, which could be worth millions to the economy and would fit with Government pledges to prioritise infrastructure projects, putting more money into the Regional Growth Fund to unlock private investment and create jobs, and expanding a National Insurance Holiday for new firms to provide targeted support.

We are also calling for a deal to cut the Humber Bridge debt to be significant enough to allow tolls to be cut in April, a commitment to go further on rolling out superfast broadband and the provision of a small amount of funding to match private spending on tourism promotion to help a successful industry prosper.

Lord Haskins, chair of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership, supported calls to reduce bridge tolls: “The high tolls on the Humber Bridge have been holding back our economy for decades. They have increased businesses’ costs and made it harder for them to compete and recruit staff.”

• More details and background in Saturday’s Yorkshire Post