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North East Economy Update

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

We’ve all been struck by the pace of change in the national economy over the past few months. A tough year lies ahead. What began in the US financial and housing sector is becoming a problem across a wider range of sectors and countries. Figures due out in January are likely to confirm that the UK has gone into recession. And the North East, like all parts of the country, will need to work hard to stay on top of a rapidly changing economic environment. Unemployment in the region has increased since the turn of the year. And while the North East’s unemployment rate is higher than elsewhere in the UK, the numbers claiming Jobseekers Allowance has actually risen more slowly in the North East than elsewhere.

But we’re entering the current recession in much better shape than in previous years. Our levels of employment are relatively high. Unemployment is at historically low levels compared to the early 1990s. And the latest set of figures on business growth show, that, up to the start of September, the region’s exporters have been making the most of the fall in the value of the pound. The value of goods exports from the North East rose by around 28% in the year to September. That’s twice the national rate of growth over the same period. Trading conditions are set to get tougher. The region will need to spend significant efforts dealing with the impact of the economic slowdown. But we need to continue to take full advantage of the opportunities that will exist too.