In the December 2020 COVID-19 Intelligence Report, we bring together data and intelligence from a range of sources – including surveys amongst North East businesses - in order to give as full a picture as possible of the impact that the pandemic is having on our economy.
You’ll see that the report includes data at both a regional and a UK level and that, for some sources, no regional data is available – in these cases the nation-wide data is used. It should also be noted that there isn’t a consistent timeline on the production of the data available and some of the data reviewed in this report preceded the most recent Government controls.
What’s clear is the cross-cutting impact of COVID-19 across the region and the UK. Whilst some sectors continue to perform well and the headline findings show that the UK economy has begun a patchy recovery from the immediate impact in March, the rate of recovery is slowing We can see that 49% of North East businesses report that their turnover is lower than they would usually expect at this time of year. And, as we’d expect, Google’s Community Mobility data shows that footfall in retail and recreation sites fell by more than 50% when the second lockdown began at the start of November, although this has since begun to recover. These sectors of our economy are very sensitive to the changing structure of controls.
When we look at redundancies and unemployment, there is a spike, with the highest quarterly increase in UK redundancy levels on record, and unemployment in our region increasing by 15,600 people between quarter two and quarter three of this year. However, recruitment is also growing, with the levels of vacancies advertised in the North East on the rise. Overall, however the current levels are still only at 88% of what we saw last year.
Throughout, it’s clear that UK growth across a range of indicators began to pick up over the summer, before once again being affected by the introduction of new restrictions to control the virus at the start of November, and we see the same trends mirrored in the North East, with many businesses expressing concern about the impact of any future lockdowns.
Looking forward, we expect to see that recovery will continue to vary across different sectors. For example while the construction industry and some areas of manufacturing are showing signs of a return to previous levels of activity, sectors like arts, culture and hospitality are facing a longer road to recovery, and a need for increased support. And this is why it’s so important that we continue to work together as a region through the COVID-19 Economic Response Group, which is driving a fast, collaborative response to the pandemic in our region.
The group has already published the ambitious North East Recovery and Renewal Deal which asks government for £2.8 billion investment to unlock half of the 100,000 more jobs required to support North East recovery quickly.
And we continue to work together to monitor the needs of businesses and communities in our region and provide the support needed to build a stronger post-pandemic regional economy.
Richard Baker, Strategy and Policy Director, North East Local Enterprise Partnership.