More than a million people in the North West are ‘economically inactive’, the highest in the UK, despite rising employment figures in Manchester, according to a report.
‘Economically inactive’ describes people who are jobless but do not meet the internationally agreed definition of unemployment – specifically they have not sought work in the past four weeks and are unavailable to work in the next two.
Published in February, the Office of National Statistics report showed that 25.1% of inhabitants aged 16-64 – a total of 1,117,000 people – were economically inactive for the period between October and December 2013.
The latest figures show a 1.5% increase on the same time-frame last year, though it is fractionally lower than records for the previous quarter.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions said that while they do everything they can to boost employment levels, it is up to people to put themselves in the frame for work.
“If people come into the job centre then we do as much as we can to get them into work,” she said.
“Job centre staff help a lot of people get back into work but they need to come to us and be part of this. If they stay at home then we can’t really do much to help them.”
The spokeswoman also pointed out that while economic inactivity levels have risen across the northwest as a whole, in Manchester there is cause for optimism.
“If you look at Manchester then you have had quite a successful time where activity has increased,” she said.
Paul Nuttall, Northwest MEP for UKIP, believes that investment in the region’s infrastructure is paramount in order to reduce the inactivity figures.
“In order to kick-start economic growth in the North West, what we need is rapid investment in local rail and road services that would see journey times between northern towns and cities reduced,” he said.
Mr Nuttall attributed the findings to the South East being favoured over the Northwest as the focus of economic growth despite the region containing two large cities in Manchester and Liverpool.
He went on to say that this attitude greatly affects opportunities for young people.
“On economic activity levels amongst over 16-year-olds, the South East even enjoys a full five-point advantage over the North West,” he said.
The statistics also showed a 2% growth in inactive men, rising to 20.3% of those living in the North-West compared to 30% of women inhabitants – though this proportion could be attributed to the number of full-time mothers.
The figures coincide with an unemployment decrease of 0.3% in the last year, which correlates with a national drop of the same percentage in the 12 months from August 2012.
The change means the North West has overtaken the North East in terms of economic inactivity, though the latter still has the highest unemployment rate overall.
Image courtesy of J J Ellison, via WikiCommons, with thanks.