Unemployment falls across Peterborough but soaring inflation dents value of wages

The number of people out of work in Peterborough and the surrounding area has fallen as the national jobless rate hits its lowest level since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new figures.

By Paul Grinnell
Tuesday, 15th March 2022, 6:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th March 2022, 2:47 pm

The Department of Work and Pensions says 98,000 people in the East of England are currently out of work - a drop of 3,000 on the quarter and down 33,000 on the year.

It means the region’s unemployment rate is currently 3.1 per cent - down 0.1 per cent on the last three months and down 1.0 per cent over the last 12 months.

Vic Annells, chief executive of the Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are hoping that Mr Sunak will do a lot for businesses that are enduring a lot of pain.

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Job Centre Plus. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images) SUS-200204-154906001

“We would like Mr Sunak to delay the planned increased in National Insurance, cut VAT on red diesel and bring in an energy price cap for small and medium sized businesses. He also needs another plan to support businesses in case there is another variant of Covid-19.”

Nationally, the number of jobless people has dropped below levels seen before the pandemic struck for the first time.

Figures show there were 1.34 million unemployed in the quarter to January, down 88,000 on the previous three months and below the 1.36 million recorded in December to February 2020.

But there was gloomy news from other figures that show runaway inflation is beginning to severely dent the value of wages.

Vic Annells, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) regular pay failed to keep up with soaring inflation, now at 5.5 per cent, with average weekly earnings, excluding bonuses, up 3.8 per cent between November last year and January this year.

The ONS says that when taking inflation into account, wages fell by 1.6 per cent compared with a year earlier.

There are also fears the ongoing war in Ukraine and sky-high gas and fuel prices will propel inflation from its current 5.5 per cent to nearly nine per cent and above next month.

These concerns have prompted calls for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to take action to ease the crisis when he makes his Spring Statement next week.

Mr Annells also warned of the danger of companies being pushed into raising wages to counter the cost of living squeeze.

He said: “The race to pay talent more is only going to inflate prices.

“At the moment if you are looking for a job the world’s your oyster. But the problems we are facing will not last and people do not want to find themselves in overpaid jobs.”

Minister for Employment, Mims Davies MP said: “These ONS figures show unemployment remains low, below pre-pandemic levels for the first time, and employment is continuing to grow, providing a stable foundation as new global challenges emerge.

“With record numbers of vacancies out there, our focus is on helping people build their skills and improve their prospects by moving into work.

“We are connecting thousands of job-ready claimants to live opportunities, giving them a platform to progress and pursue a career.”