North Yorkshire economy returns to pre-lockdown levels of productivity

A county which saw almost a third of its workforce furloughed during the pandemic is seeing its economy return to pre-lockdown levels of productivity and the proportion of unemployment-related benefit claimants in one district drop to the lowest on the UK mainland.

A North Yorkshire County Council report into the performance of the tourism and agriculture dominated area’s economy over the last 12 months underlines how the county’s service industries have bounced back despite facing a range of challenges, such as high inflation.

The study comes as officers work to develop a new economic growth plan for North Yorkshire, and in particular examine the opportunities to bring together the district councils’ roles as local agencies of development in the county’s new unitary authority, to support greater wellbeing and prosperity.

Economic growth officers said the latest data suggests that although the county experienced a greater percentage decline in producivity than the UK as a whole during the pandemic, the recovery in North Yorkshire has been stronger, with the hospitality sector’s resilience being “a key factor”.

County Hall, Northallerton

The report states how at the height of the pandemic, some 32 per cent of workers – 88,200 – across the county and some 40 per cent in Scarborough district were furloughed, which was among the highest rates in the North of England.

However, it highlights how in January, following the end of furlough schemes, North Yorkshire’s unemployment claimant count stood at 2.5 per cent compared with 4.7 per cent across Yorkshire and Humber and 4.4 per cent for the country.

With just 1.8 per cent of Richmondshire’s population aged 16 to 64 claiming unemployment-related benefits, the district has the lowest percentage claimant count on the UK mainland.

Only the Orkney Islands and the Isle of Scilly have a lower rate.

The report states: “Constrained labour supply will be a limiting factor on future growth opportunities nationally, but particularly in North Yorkshire.

"Work is currently being undertaken in partnership with the University of York to understand the implications of this.”

Richmondshire District Council corporate board spokesman Richard Good welcomed the low number of unemployment claimants in the area, but said it could prove to be a double-edged sword for the area.

He said: “It is a slight problem because a lot of people, and in particular hospitality businesses, are struggling to find staff at the busy season. It could impact on businesses as they are certainly struggling to recruit.”

The report concludes a key outcome of the pandemic has been the change in workplace practices to more flexibility and the development of a working from home economy.

It states: “This has the ability to transform our rural economy, as there is less need to commute to a physical place of work for many people. The council’s support of digital connectivity has been invaluable in supporting North Yorkshire as a future place to live an excellent quality of life while being able to access a range of different work possibilities.”