Latest figures show pandemic’s impact on employment

Almost 220,000 people in West Yorkshire are furloughed or claiming unemployment benefits according to the latest data on the region’s economy published by the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP).  

As of the end of December 2020, 112,800 roles had been furloughed, or 11% of eligible jobs, while the number of people claiming out of work benefits had risen 0.7% from November to 106,300.

Together, this is equivalent to 11.5% of the region’s 1.9 million-strong workforce.   

Roger Marsh, chairman of the LEP and NP11 group of Northern local enterprise partnerships, said: “With over one in ten people in the region’s workforce unemployed or on furlough, the latest economic data makes for sobering reading.

“But we’re seeing some tentative green shoots, with rising job vacancies and businesses showing resilience in these trying circumstances – plus sustained interest from companies wanting to invest in the region.

“We hope that the roll-out of the vaccine is a shot in the arm for the economy and lockdown measures can soon be eased.

“As the LEP we are doing all we can to help and support businesses through this time.”

The data shows that 2,000 businesses across the region went into liquidation in January, a rate 45% higher than January 2020, while more than a third (35%) of businesses said they had less than three months’ cash reserves – a rise from 28% before the second national lockdown was put in place in November.    

However, the data also shows that the end of January saw a 13% rise in the number of job vacancies posted online – a similar rate to the rest of the UK.

While activity is still slightly below pre-pandemic levels, new job listings are higher than during the first lockdown.    

Almost 4,400 new business accounts were opened in the last quarter of 2020, a rate 6% higher than the same period in 2019, with the number of new business accounts opened in Bradford rising by 23%. 

Between the outbreak of the pandemic and the end of the 2020, the LEP’s Business Support Service helped over 3,500 businesses with many receiving grants or one-to-one advice from a business professional. 

It has delivered almost £3.5m in grants to around 1,500 small firms in West Yorkshire, business coaching and mentoring sessions, as well as working with West Yorkshire’s Local Authorities deliver over £520m of discretionary grant funding to around 54,000 businesses.   

To help individuals who have been furloughed or made redundant during the pandemic, the LEP and Combined Authority are also investing £13.5m of funding secured through the West Yorkshire devolution deal to enhance and expand the successful [re]boot and Employment Hub programmes 

The programmes will help over 10,000 people in the region build new skills and access training or find work over the next two years.    

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