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Economic bulletin

We are ambitious for the economy of Staffordshire, our businesses, and people. The impacts of global events continue to be felt on the local, national, and global economies and cannot be ignored. However, the county council, Government, and our partners, will continue to support Staffordshire’s residents and businesses through challenging times, ensuring we are well-placed to deliver a more resilient, more dynamic and more productive local economy.

Our ambitious Economic Strategy is our roadmap to delivering our ambitions for the Staffordshire economy, where our existing business are helped to grow, new businesses are established and thrive, our residents have the skills needed to access the jobs of the future and our towns across the county are supported to be places we can all be proud of.

An Employment and Skills Strategy 2023-2030 has been developed to support this and can be used to guide future employment and skills work programmes, to enable effective communication of Staffordshire’s shared employment and skills goals, and to inform the development of the Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) for Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.

A summary brochure of the Staffordshire Employment and Skills Strategy 2023-2030 has also been produced.

To effectively achieve our priorities and deliver our long-term vision for our economy we need robust ongoing analysis and evidence of the latest economic picture, ensuring that we are aware of any challenges that may arise. The monthly Economic Bulletin forms a key part of our live evidence base.

Latest edition

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 analysis of official Government data, national intelligence and local insights on the state of the local economy. 

Alongside information on the Claimant Count and Job Vacancies that will be a part of every Bulletin, 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 are being impacted the hardest by unemployment and a reliance on work-related benefits 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 are faring during the current economic climate. 

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 darren.farmer@staffordshire.gov.uk.

 

Stay Safe,
Darryl Eyers
Director for Economy, Infrastructure and Skills, Staffordshire County Council

 

Key messages from edition 43

Local Picture

  • In Staffordshire having seen improvement in the local economy and labour market following the COVID pandemic, as seen nationally, we have seen unemployment, youth unemployment and dependency on work-related benefits increase during the energy and cost-of-living crisis. This is reflected in this month’s further increase in the Claimant Count. Although it is positive that there continues to be a high number of job vacancies available for those that unfortunately find themselves out of work. We will continue to support our residents into work and ensure that Staffordshire has the strong workforce it needs to grow the economy.
  • We also continue to support local businesses that face ongoing challenging conditions due to a wide range of factors including high interest rates and energy prices, increased commodity costs, increasing wage levels and lower consumer demand.
  • Looking at the local data in more detail, following long-term declines in the claimant countapproaching pre-pandemic levels, the number of work-related benefit claimants in Staffordshireincreased by 855 this month to a total of 15,910 claimants. This month has also seen significant increases both regionally and nationally.
  • The claimant rate for Staffordshire has increased this month from 2.8% to 3.0% of the working age population. Staffordshire remains one of the lowest rates in the West Midlands, far lower than the average for the region of 5.0% which increased from 4.8%, and lower than the average for England at 3.9% which increased from 3.8%.
  • The increases in claimants in Staffordshire, regionally and nationally is reflective of the challenging economic conditions businesses continue to operate in across the country and will in part be due to some seasonal jobs coming to an end.  We will continue to support those residents that unfortunately find themselves out of work to access employment through our partnership working and dedicated Jobs Brokerage service.
  • Positively, for those residents out of work, demand for labour remains high with the number of vacancies still above pre-pandemic levels and there is currently estimated to be close to one job vacancy available for every claimant within the county.
  • Staffordshire saw a 6.6% increase in the number of available job vacancies between January and February to a total of 15,400. This is lower than the number of work-related benefit claimants. Stoke-on-Trent saw a 2.9% increase in job vacancies to a total of 6,320 which is also lower than the number of claimants. Across the region in the last month there was a 3.4% increase, and nationally there was a 5.6% increase in job vacancies. Therefore, Staffordshire is above with increases seen both regionally and nationally. The increase this month in the number of job vacancies is positive given the increase in benefit claimants we are currently witnessing.
  • Considering the top 20 job vacancy occupations in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, demand for roles in social care continue to remain high with ‘Care Workers and Home Carers’ being the most in demand occupations. The following occupations ‘Sales Related’, ‘Cleaners & Domestics’, and ‘Teaching Assistants’, also have strong demand.
  • There continue to be reports of labour and skills shortages with not enough skilled workers to fill the vacant jobs.This has the potential to slow down economic growth and limit business survival unless the labour shortage and skills gap is quickly and effectively addressed. Clearly employment support organisations, skills providers and the Government’s Plan for Jobs including the Restart schemes and new Skills Bootcamps have a vital role in upskilling and reskilling jobseekers into areas of demand and preventing them becoming long-term unemployed. Government and business sectors have a key role in ensuring that jobs in areas of demand are attracting workers with good pay and terms and conditions to help prevent labour shortages.
  • It is clear there continues to be a high number of jobs available in the local economy and the need now is to ensure that there is a strong local labour pool with skilled workers able to fill these roles to support business recovery/survival and improve prosperity through better pay. The national and local support which is in place to support those that have been unfortunate enough to lose their jobs is vital in both reskilling and upskilling as well as enabling potential applicants to access the opportunities available. Encouraging those that have become economically inactive due to COVID will further help to address labour shortages and skills gaps.
  • Staffordshire County Council’s new Job Brokerage Service is designed to do exactly this by matching local people, employers, and training providers to fill jobs and provide people with the jobs and careers they need.
  • There are clear emerging opportunities for job creation in digital (including online retail and e-commerce) and the green economy (including retrofitting homes to improve energy efficiency, electric cars e.g., Jaguar Land Rover, and hydrogen e.g., JCB).
  • We will also look to build on our existing strengths including engineering andadvanced manufacturing through the adoption of AI, Automation and Machine Learning, construction to achieve Government house building targets and build major new infrastructure projects such as the West Midlands Freight Interchange which will create 8,500 new jobs. Also advanced logistics with ecommerce creating continued demand and the recent announcement by Pets At Home in Stafford creating over 750 new jobs.

 

Local Initiatives

  • Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent businesses that have been turned down by other lenders can now apply to the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Business Loan Fund, supporting businesses to grow through affordable, unsecured loans from £10,000 to £50,000.
  • Applications for Staffordshire Means Back to Business Scheme business loans and grants remain open to small businesses in Staffordshire, including the Get Started and Grow Scheme.
  • Alongside this there is support available through the Growth Hub and we have our start-up schemes and the Staffordshire Jobs and Careers Service.
  • The Staffordshire Business and Enterprise Network (SBEN) continues to support local businesses with the transition to Net Zero.
  • 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 Restart Scheme and skills bootcamps.
  • Stoke-On-Trent & Staffordshire Growth Hub have partnered with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) to offer free 1-2-1 virtual business support sessions.
  • The Staffordshire County Council Workplace Health Service, working with public health and local health experts, offers businesses a comprehensive and funded package of online and in-person support.
  • Businesses across Staffordshire have the opportunity to build confidence and skill-up their staff for free with the government's Multiply scheme.
  • Businesses in Staffordshire can now apply for free energy assessments through the Green Solutions scheme.
  • Staffordshire County Council and partners are calling on the government to invest £3 million into further developing the A50/500 route to create highly skilled jobs and better transport links.
  • A ceremony has taken place to mark the first official day of construction of the brand new Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Institute of Technology. It will welcome its first learners in September 2025.
  • The Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire Careers Hub have unveiled its latest initiative, which seeks to provide groups of students with valuable work experience.

 

National Context

  • This month we heard that the Prime Minister has ruled out holding a general election on the same day as local elections on 2 May and stated that it would be in the “second half” of the year.
  • The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt announced his latest budget, with wide ranging measures including a further cut to National Insurance.

 

Cost of Living 

  • The UK's inflation rate rose by 3.4 per cent in the 12 months to February 2024, down from 4.0 per cent in January.
  • Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast that the UK's inflation rate is to fall below 2% target by the end of June, falling to 1.5% next year.
  • Real pay growth continues as inflation continues to fall. Annual growth in total earnings (including bonuses) in Great Britain was 5.6% in November 2023 to January 2024, and annual growth in employees' average regular earnings (excluding bonuses) was 6.1%. Annual growth in real terms (adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers' housing costs (CPIH)) for total pay rose on the year by 1.4% in November 2023 to January 2024, and for regular pay rose on the year by 1.8%.
  • There still remain strikes over pay in important parts of the economy, including NHS consultants, junior doctors, and rail workers. There were 203,000 working days lost because of labour disputes across the UK in January 2024.

 

Economy

  • The UK economy picked up in January, raising hopes it could be on its way out of recession. The economy grew by 0.2%, boosted by sales in shops and online and more construction activity. On the quarter GDP was down 0.1%.
  • The Office for Budget Responsibility predicts UK economy to grow by 0.8% this year and 1.9% next year. Followed by growth of 2% predicted for 2026, with 1.8% in 2027 and 1.7% in 2028.

 

Business Conditions

  • We are aware that there are still many businesses struggling due to a wide range of factors including high interest rates and energy prices, increased commodity costs, wage pressures, supply-chain constraints, lower consumer confidence and labour market challenges.
  • However, there are signs that the business environment is improving with a number of key indicators starting to head in the right direction and it is important that we continue to support viable businesses through these challenging times to survive and then grow.
  • The latest business insolvencies data which shows that in February 2024 there were a total of 2,102 company insolvencies in England and Wales, 17% higher than the number registered in the previous year (1,801 in February 2023), and 207% higher than the number registered three years previously: 685 in February 2021). The main concern around company and individual insolvencies are associated issues such as mental health and homelessness.

 

Labour Market

  • In summary, the number of payrolled employees has continued to increase this month and is well above pre-pandemic levels. Over the last quarter employment has decreased and remains below pre-pandemic level, unemployment was largely unchanged on the quarter and is now below pre-pandemic level and economic inactivity increased during the last quarter and remains well above pre-pandemic level. Job vacancies have seen a further decline which reflects the long-term trend but remain above pre-pandemic levels.
  • Payrolled employees in the UK rose by 15,000 (0.0%) between December 2023 and January 2024, and rose by 386,000 (1.3%) between January 2023 and January 2024. While the number of payrolled employees continues to increase, the rate of annual growth is decreasing. The early estimate of payrolled employees for February 2024 increased by 20,000 (0.1%) on the month and increased by 368,000 (1.2%) on the year to 30.4 million.
  • The UK employment rate (for those aged 16 to 64 years) was estimated at 75.0% in November 2023 to January 2024, below estimates of a year ago and down in the latest quarter.
  • The UK unemployment rate (for those aged 16 years and over) was estimated at 3.9% in November 2023 to January 2024. The unemployment rate is above estimates of a year ago (November 2022 to January 2023) but largely unchanged on the latest quarter.
  • The UK economic inactivity rate for those aged 16 to 64 years was 21.8%, above estimates of a year ago (November 2022 to January 2023) and increased in the latest quarter. The number of working-age people outside of the jobs market has hit a post-pandemic high of 9.3 million, an increase of 670,000 or about 8 per cent compared to the start of the current Parliament in 2019.
  • The UK Claimant Count for February 2024 increased by 16,800 on the month and by 85,800 on the year to 1.585 million.
  • In December 2023 to February 2024, the estimated number of vacancies in the UK fell by 43,000 on the quarter to 908,000. Vacancies fell on the quarter for the 20th consecutive period but are still above pre-coronavirus (COVID- 19) pandemic levels.

 

Conclusion

  • In conclusion, we have seen inflation continue to ease and wage growth for many higher than prices rises meaning that more people are seeing the impact of the cost-of-living reduce.
  • The UK economy returned to growth and is hopefully heading out of recession and the OBR predict modest growth over 2024 and following years. Inflation is expected to ease further leading to likely interest rate cuts later in the year of further benefit to economic recovery.
  • Business outlook is becoming more optimistic, with energy and inflation challenges easing, but demand and competition remain a concern.
  • Labour market tightness continues to soften with unemployment low and real wages are higher, however employment remains down on pre-pandemic levels and concerningly economic inactivity has increased further and is well above the levels seen prior to COVID.
  • We need to continue to support those still struggling with the cost-of-living and support viable businesses to survive and grow during these challenging economic conditions. By reducing the impact on our business base we can see faster recovery from the recession and return to economic growth to the benefit of all.
  • In Staffordshire we have a confident, diverse, and robust economy, demonstrated by the improvement and recovery witnessed since the last lockdown due to Covid.As the ongoing global and national socio-economic challenges persist it remains vital that local partners work together to support local businesses and residents. We continue to deliver the Staffordshire Means Back to Business Programme which has helped hundreds of Staffordshire businesses transition to new business models including diversification, digitisation and greenification to improve their viability and sustainability.
  • We continue to support residents into work and help businesses address ongoing labour shortages and skills gaps to aid survival and growth. A key part of this being the recently established Staffordshire Jobs and Careers Brokerage Service which is designed to match local people, employers, and training providers to fill jobs and provide people with the jobs and careers they need.
  • Alongside this the Government’s ‘Plan for Jobs’ schemes such as Restart, and Skills Bootcamps have an important role to play in ensuring that local residents have the skills and training needed within the local economy to support increased growth, productivity, and prosperity. Reskilling and upskilling residents from declining sectors into priority growth areas of the economy such as digital, green, advanced manufacturing, advanced logistics, construction, and health and social care where they can access higher value better paid jobs will be key.

 


Earlier editions

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)

Edition 9 (2.1 MB) 

Edition 10 (1.6 MB)

Edition 11 (2 MB)

Edition 12 (2 MB)

Edition 13 (1.55 MB)

Edition 14 (2.2 MB)

Edition 15 (1.57 MB)

Edition 16 (2.14 MB)

Edition 17 (2.64 MB)

Edition 18 (2.33 MB)

Edition 19 (3.43 MB)

Edition 20 (3.3 MB)

Edition 21 (2.1 MB)

Edition 22 (2.3 MB)

Edition 23 (2.76 MB)

Edition 24 (2.65 MB)

Edition 25 (4.36 MB)

Edition 26 (3.11 MB)

Edition 27 (2.85 MB)

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