A target to create 100,000 new jobs in the North East over a 10-year period has been knocked off course by a series of global political shocks, economic leaders say.

The North East LEP set out plans in 2014 to create 100,000 more jobs by 2024, with 70% of those being classed as ‘better’ jobs. The first five years of that strategy saw the LEP on course to match that total, but events since then – including the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis – have seen the region’s employment rate suffering.

Last week an LEP event heard that the increase in jobs in the region since 2014 now stands at just over 60,000, meaning the region is unlikely to hit the 100,000 target by the original 2024 deadline. Next year will also see the LEP go out of existence as its work becomes part of the North East mayoral authority under the region’s enlarged devolution deal.

Efforts to create better jobs have been more successful, with the LEP event hearing that the number of people in the North East working in professional and managerial professions has increased by 82,100 since 2014. But though unemployment has been falling in the North East, the number of people becoming economically inactive has hampered efforts to boost the region’s jobs total.

LEP chief executive Helen Golightly said: “The economic slowdown in 2019/20 saw employment figures down by 6,500 compared to the previous year, but we still remained on target to achieve the 100,000 more and better jobs total by 2024.

“Then the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been huge on the North East economy. Despite being shielded from the initial shock because of the furlough scheme, when that ended employment eventually dropped by 30,500 in 2021/22 to 850,000.

“Since then we’ve experienced a series of supply shocks that have limited our economy recovery, including the war on Ukraine, an increase in economic inactivity, and the sharp rise in inflation. We are starting to see green shoots now, and positive signs the economy is recovering.

"The latest figures for 2022/23 show that employment has reached 873,000, with 7,000 of these jobs being created through foreign direct investment. This makes the North East the most successful region in England, outside of London, for job creation through international investment.

“The current figures show 61,500 more jobs have been added to our economy since 2014. But the number of better jobs in the economy since 2014 is 82,100 higher, which is very encouraging.

“The combination of the coronavirus pandemic and the numerous economic shocks we’ve experienced in the very short space of time have clearly impacted our target of adding 100,000 more and better jobs to the North East economy by 2024. Despite this, our region has remained resilient, and we should have confidence in our continued economic recovery moving forward, especially as we transition into the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority.”

Last week saw the first regional unemployment figures released by the Office for National Statistics using a new method of calculation. The North East’s rate of 4.2% was higher than a record low reported earlier this year, but still low by historical standards in the region.

The 100,000 jobs target was set in 2014 when a review by Lord Adonis for the LEP recommended ways of improving the North East economy and making it more productive. As well as missing that target, the LEP event heard that average pay and productivity in the North East are still lagging behind national averages, while people in the region have significantly lower healthy lifespans than other parts of the country.

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