Covid-19 has been devasting for economies across the country. The economic support measures that we have put in place in Staffordshire as a partnership, alongside those made by government, have had a positive impact, but the next few months will be challenging.
Despite the challenges ahead, Staffordshire can still achieve its potential as a thriving powerhouse economy on the international stage by not just recovering, but renewing. Our five-year Economic Recovery and Renewal Strategy (2.4 MB) outlines how we will seek to make this happen. To effectively respond to those challenges we must all be able to see behind the headlines and understand the full picture - the monthly Economic Bulletin does just that.
Edition 9 (2.1 MB)
Welcome to the latest edition of the Staffordshire & Stoke-on-Trent Economic Bulletin produced by our Economy, Skills and Insight Teams, which provides the timeliest secondary data available on what is happening with the local economy. However, this clearly only provides part of the picture and we continue to build up our softer intelligence to provide a better indication of what is happening on the ground, including the local response to the COVID-19 crisis and subsequent recovery.
Alongside information on the Claimant Count and Job Vacancies that will be a part of every Bulletin, we again look at the latest Government data regarding the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) Furloughed Workers. The next HMRC release of the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) data is due on the 3 June when we will provide further analysis. This month’s issue also provides more detailed youth claimant count analysis and updated ward level analysis of the claimant count to help identify areas which have been impacted the hardest across Staffordshire & Stoke on Trent and where there may be a greater need for support. We also provide analysis of the latest business insolvency data to further understand how businesses have been impacted by COVID and the influence that Government measures have had on company and individual insolvencies.
We hope you find the Bulletin useful and welcome your comments and suggestions on further information you would like to see included in future editions. If you do have any feedback please send your comments to Darren Farmer, Economy & Skills Analyst at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director for Economy, Infrastructure and Skills, Staffordshire County Council
Key messages from edition 9
- Over recent weeks it has been very positive to see rates of infection continue to fall with the rate in Staffordshire more than halving over the last month to a level not seen since early October.
- The UK vaccination programme continues to be successfully rolled-out with more than half of the adult population already vaccinated and is still on track to vaccinate all over-50s by mid-April and all adults by the end of July. In mid-March Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent was the highest CCG in the country for over-65 uptake levels with over 500,000 adults now vaccinated.
- There is also confidence from leading experts that the UK is “well-equipped” to stay ahead of COVID-19 variants and that vaccines continue to be very effective against any strains currently circulating. Again, effective surge testing in areas where new variants are found is key to staying ahead of the virus.
- In terms of the ongoing economic impact from the pandemic, the UK economy shrank by 2.9% in January amid the third lockdown and Brexit with more staff on furlough and diminished international trading due to Brexit leading to lower economic output but smaller decline than expected due to businesses changing their business model during lockdown.
- More positively, the UK unemployment rate for the three months to February stood at 5%, down from 5.1% for the three months to January with furlough preventing mass redundancies in sectors hardest hit and some businesses adapting to lockdowns and recruiting more staff. However, there remain 1.7 million people out of work which is around a five-year high.
- To aid with the recovery the 3rd March budget outlined the Government’s long-term blueprint for the recovery. It was announced that there would be a further £65 billion in support for workers and businesses, as part of a three-part plan to “protect jobs and livelihoods of the British people”.
- Key budget announcements included an extension to the furlough scheme until the end of September and more support for the self-employed; a six-month extension to the £20-a-week uplift in Universal Credit; a three-month extension to the business rates holiday in England; £408 million for museums, theatres and galleries in England to help them reopen when coronavirus restrictions ease; more than £1 billion to be shared between 45 struggling towns in England; and more investment for traineeships. Other Budget measures included a £5 billion grants scheme to help the hardest hit town centre businesses reopen; a further £1.65 billion for the UK's vaccine rollout; £19 million more for domestic violence programmes; and eight ‘freeports’ in England.
- The budget also introduced the new Levelling Up and Community Renewal Funds. The new £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund (LUF) which will invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK such as support for town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects, and cultural and heritage assets. While the £220m UK Community Renewal Fund (CRF) aims to support people and communities most in need across the UK to pilot programmes and new approaches and will invest in skills, community and place, local business, and supporting people into employment.
- Businesses also have access to a wide range of local support to aid the recovery including the launch of the new £5m Staffordshire Means Back to Business Support Scheme which includes an investment to cover the costs for up to 500 apprentices, a training top-up fund for businesses to upskill their employees, a grants scheme to enable small businesses to thrive.
- Alongside this the next round of the £2 million Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Business Loan Fund will open to small businesses in April and we have our start-up schemes and the Redundancy and Recruitment Triage Service.
- To ensure residents have access to the support needed to find employment there are several employment and skills programmes which they can access including the Kickstart Scheme and Restart Scheme.
- Looking at the latest data, given our strong position going into the crisis the number of people on some form of government economic support scheme (including Universal Credit, Furlough and Self-employment Income Support) is estimated to be lower than the rest of the country, 20% compared to 23% nationally, but has increased further during the third lockdown as more people were furloughed.
- The claimant count in Staffordshire saw an increase of 1,335 claimants between January and February 2021 to a total of 25,650 claimants and the claimant rate has increased from 4.5% of the working age population in January to 4.8% in February. This shows the likely ongoing impact of the third lockdown on businesses and jobs, with reduced trading leading to reduced hours and staffing requirements and an increase in the furloughing of staff particularly in hardest hit sectors such as hospitality and retail. However, Universal Credit claimants have more than doubled since the start of the crisis in March (although many will not be out of work entirely).
- Young people, women and the lowest paid continue to feel the biggest impact. From March 2020 to January 2021 the proportion of young people claiming Universal Credit increased considerably with over 5,000 young people in Staffordshire now claiming Universal Credit.
- The latest Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) figures show that there were 55,600 furloughed job claims in Staffordshire up to the end of February, equivalent to 14% of eligible workers, which is in-line with the regional average but slightly lower than the national average of 15%. Stoke-on-Trent had 14,500 jobs still furloughed, equivalent to 13% of eligible jobs. The concern is how many of those on furlough will be able to return to work between now and when the CJRS scheme ends at the end of September.
- Business insolvencies in February 2021 were nearly half (49% lower) the level seen a year earlier. This follows a similar trend seen since COVID emerged in March 2020 and will at least partly be due to government measures put in place in response to the pandemic. Concern regarding how many are viable without Government support
- The ongoing third lockdown has seen a further decline in recruitment during February, with job vacancies in Staffordshire decreasing by 14% between January and February equivalent to 2,800 fewer job vacancies, which is just below the 15% decline seen nationally. Stoke-on-Trent also saw a decline of 14% with just over 1,000 fewer vacancies in February compared to January. This continued decline in recruitment has seen vacancy levels drop by around a fifth compared to a year earlier.
- We continue to see demand for roles in health, social care and logistics e.g. ASOS and Pets at Home with clear emerging opportunities for job creation in digital (including online retail), advanced manufacturing (AI, Automation and Machine Learning), construction (£900 million Getting Building Fund) and the green economy (including retrofitting homes to improve energy efficiency and electric cars e.g. Jaguar Land Rover).
- In conclusion, it is apparent that the third national lockdown and tighter restrictions continue to cause further economic impact to businesses and jobs but it continues to be clear that Government and local support is playing a vital role in helping businesses to survive and stave off further job losses. Alongside this the increasing speed and success of the vaccination programme rollout continues to be a major step in the right direction to reducing further impacts.
- As the vaccines continue to be provided to the general population it is vital that additional support such as the Additional Restrictions Grant is utilised to help businesses transition to new business models including diversification and digitisation to improve their viability and sustainability. Alongside this the Restart Scheme has an important role to play in ensuring that local residents have the skills needed within the local economy to support increased growth, productivity and prosperity.
Edition 1 (1.63 MB)
Edition 2 (996 KB)
Edition 3 (987 KB)
Edition 4 (1.1 MB)
Edition 5 (1.2 MB)
Edition 6 (1.1 MB)
Edition 7 (1.6 MB)
Edition 8 (1.4 MB)