Opportunity is knocking for jobseekers

Work on the production line at Sunderland's Nissan plant.
Work on the production line at Sunderland's Nissan plant.

Unemployment down, the number of people who are economically active on the rise, and more people in work since records began: The UK is open for business, with the North East leading the vanguard.

The summer has certainly not been ordinary, nor plain sailing for our economy. However, out the other side the vital signs look good, and our prospects for the future positive and strong.

I have seen first-hand the range of jobs on offer across Northumberland and the wealth of opportunity out there for jobseekers, school leavers and experienced hires.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in our jobs market. This past quarter there were 32 million people in work, 174,000 more than for February to April this year, and 559,000 more than for this time last year.

The number of people in work continues to rise, but so does the number in secure, full-time employment. This month there were 23.25 million people working full-time, 434,000 more compared to a year earlier.

Last month, the employment rate reached 74.5 per cent — the joint highest level seen in the UK since records began.

It is not just for the greater UK that the prospects are looking rosy. Here in the North East, I have seen first-hand the range of jobs on offer across Northumberland and the wealth of opportunity out there for jobseekers, school leavers and experienced hires.

This month I organised, along with Hexham JobCentre Plus, the Tynedale Jobs Fair. We had more than 500 people through the door, talking to 45 employers and apprenticeship providers. Several employers left having offered jobs and interviews to attendees, while more than one remarked on the staff they had trained and retained from last year’s fair.

More than 270 pupils from surrounding middle and high schools came to our fair, gaining valuable experience, talking to employers and training providers, and some leaving with part-time jobs — their first step onto the jobs ladder.

The crucial point of the fair is to open up the horizons of jobseekers so they can see the wealth of opportunity on offer in their local community.

Getting people into work is a main engine of social mobility: it means that not only can people bring home more each month than when on benefits, but also gain vital skills in training, then take those skills into the open market to compete for better jobs and more pay as they work their way up.

Studies have also demonstrated the significant social good of employment as job-winners often receive boosts in self-confidence and worth that comes from being able to provide for their families.

Tynedale has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, with an extremely low 1.2 per cent claimant rate. However, I am determined to keep pushing until everyone who wants one has a job.

The total number of claimants is 71 lower than this time last year, and youth claimants are down by 55, demonstrating the strides we are making, and the remaining task. I am passionate about making sure that we have a strong local economy, with as many people taking home a decent pay packet as possible.

The story does not end there though. The tide in the wider North East is also turning.

Although unemployment remains too high, we are seeing green shoots of opportunity. Our tech companies are world beating, our manufacturing is leading the way for the UK, and in car production for Europe, and our small businesses and entrepreneurs are outstanding examples for the country to follow.

Last year the North East grew faster than any other northern region. It saw the greatest fall in the economic inactivity rate across the UK, decreasing 2.3 per cent on this time last year. More people in work, and more in secure, well-paying jobs, that is at the heart of what this Government continues to drive towards.

As a region of historically stubborn unemployment, the North East is a great example of our work in action, and as the UK continues to open up for business the North East can go from strength to strength.

I have seen the amazing array of opportunities out there for jobseekers, those seeking a career change and new starters, and my aim is to help as many people as possible to see those opportunities too.