West Yorkshire’s economic recovery has picked up pace this summer, with increased activity in towns and cities and an improved jobs market, regional business leaders heard today at the latest meeting of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
The news comes as the LEP considered the next iteration of the West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Plan, which moves the focus from rescuing the region’s economy to re-imagining and building resilience.
As well as its continued focus on levelling up and tackling the climate emergency, the updated Recovery Plan includes measures to deliver on pledges made by the Mayor of West Yorkshire to secure a fair, just and lasting recovery following the end of Covid restrictions.
Sir Roger Marsh OBE DL, chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and NP11 Group of Northern LEPs, said: “The positive news around business and consumer confidence means hopefully the worst of the crisis is now behind us.
“The recovery offers our region the opportunity to rethink how we work and do business so we can build a stronger, fairer and more resilient economy.
“But we can’t be blind to challenges that our region still faces. Businesses still face uncertainty as we go into the autumn and winter, and there are still 57,000 people on furlough who must be anxious about the future of their jobs as the scheme comes to a close at the end of the month.”
The latest economic data for West Yorkshire show that activity in towns and cities across the region has now recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with rising business and consumer confidence, higher recruitment and business investment, and consumer spending.
West Yorkshire’s jobs market also continues to improve with employment returning to pre-pandemic levels. By July there were 984,000 payrolled staff in the region, a rise of around 7,000 from the month before and 31,000 higher than the low point of February 2021.
Job vacancies have seen strong growth, with the number of roles being recruited higher than pre-crisis levels for 18 consecutive weeks. The number of people claiming out-of-work benefits remains stable at 96,600 by the end of July, although this is still 71% higher than pre-pandemic levels and is 6.6% above the national average.
However, challenges remain. 57,000 jobs were furloughed at the end of June, down from 73,000 the previous month and an 81% drop from the peak of 304,000 in June 2020, although this still represented 6% of eligible jobs. Furlough ends completely on 30 September.
Board members also heard an update on actions the LEP took alongside the Combined Authority and the five West Yorkshire local authorities (Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees, Wakefield, Calderdale) to support residents and businesses in the region.
Together, the five local authorities helped to distribute over £1 billion of support to businesses, while the Combined Authority has invested £13.5m to support 10,000 individuals who are unemployed, furloughed or need to update their skills, back towards employment.