Pandemic leads to 53% rise in benefit claims in South Tyneside while job vacancies fall by a fifth
The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on South Tyneside’s employment landscape – with a 53% jump in people claiming benefit.
In the first four months of lockdown, an extra 3,125 signed on for government benefits, a 3.3% increase, latest figures show.
It means 8,875 people of working age – or 9.5% – were seeking state handouts by mid-July, compared to 5,750 – or 6.2% - in March.
Overall, it is believed that over 20,000 residents have been furloughed to date – with a fifth fewer job vacancies on offer for people out of work.
Experts say the borough has been especially badly hit due to its heavy reliance on highly-impacted sectors like tourism and culture.
The bleak outlook has spurred council chiefs to announce a new five-year blueprint to aid economic recovery and create 10,000 jobs.
They say their Economic Recovery Plan sets out initiatives to help create future growth and prosperity, boosting employment and revitalising key infrastructure.
Their plan aims to drive a green, sustainable and digitally-focused economic recovery.
Key will be capitalising on innovation and investment, particularly around the offshore and renewable energy sectors.
Cllr John Anglin, Lead Member for Regeneration and Economy, said: “Many businesses effectively came to a halt during lockdown.
“We know the economic impact is going to be profound and prolonged.
“This Economic Recovery Plan outlines the key actions that we will take to raise prosperity by continuing to create an economic environment that attracts, and boosts opportunities for, residents, students, businesses, investors and visitors.”
The plan, which will link with national and regional approaches to stimulate the economy, focuses on skills and green growth.
It calls for more devolution of powers and funding so that services and programmes can be designed and delivered locally.
And it sets out 20 new interventions, including securing local ownership of national skills and employment funds, and building new fit-for-purpose business accommodation.
It also wants a North East Free Trade Zone linking the Port of Tyne to the under-construction International Advanced Manufacturing Park near Nissan.
The plan will also see the rollout of full fibre broadband and make key waterfront sites offshore wind ready for investors.
Finally, it wants the development of a nationally-recognised and digitally-connected ‘cultural quarter’ around The Word library in South Shields, and the tackling of barriers to good health.
The council says it has provided advice and support to firms and distributed over £26.2m of grants to 2,314 businesses.
Lucy Winskell, Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “We very much welcome this bold and ambitious plan for South Tyneside.
“It has been developed with its residents front of mind, but which also recognises the Borough’s important contribution to the wider North East economy.
“Working collaboratively across the region is even more vital now than ever and through the continued partnership working highlighted in its plan, the borough will play a key role in helping to deliver our aim of 100,000 more and better jobs across the North East LEP area by 2024.”