8,000 jobs under threat

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UP TO 8,000 more public sector jobs could be lost in Sheffield - and even more could be under threat in private contractors and supply companies, according to a new report.

The State of Sheffield 2012 - the first comprehensive report drawing together information from public bodies and businesses - sets out current and future challenges for city leaders.

It says up to 12,000 new private sector jobs could be created at new Enterprise Zones in the area - in Sheffield, Rotherham and north Derbyshire - where companies will have favourable tax rates and relaxed planning rules, but warns of heavy job losses in the public sector.

The city’s large dependence on the public sector for employment - which was responsible for 52 per cent of posts created between 1995 and 2008 - means the local economy is vulnerable as Government budget cuts bite.

The report warns: “The city’s economy still exhibits certain structural weaknesses. Sheffield has a long-standing low level of entrepreneurship and a weak performance in research and development.

“By applying the Government’s Office for Budget Responsibilities’ assumptions, there could be between 6,000 and 8,000 jobs lost in the city by 2014/15.

“These estimates exclude knock-on effects in the private sector through direct contracts and supply chains.”

The study, by Sheffield University academic Gordon Dabinett and Sheffield Council officer Andi Walshaw, reveals Sheffield’s employment rate of 68.3 per cent is below the 72.9 per cent national average.

During the recession, the employment rate did ‘not fall as much as most other major cities’, but growth of new jobs has since been slow.

The number of vacant jobs only increased by 2.6 per cent during 2009/10, compared with 37 per cent in Yorkshire and the Humber as a whole.

The number of long-term unemployed out of work for at least a year increased more than three-fold between 2007 and 2010, from 940 to 3,095, with the proportion of long-term unemployed in the city increasing from 12.3 per cent to 20.4 per cent, well above the England average of 18.3 per cent.

Mr Dabinett said: “Sheffield is a city going through change.

“The report is about looking at how Sheffield has responded to previous challenges and building a new economy.”

The report has pulled together information from the council, Government, health authorities, businesses and other groups.

Its publication comes a week after a report by independent think tank, Centre for Cities, which compared Sheffield with 63 other large towns and cities around the UK.

Richard Wright, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce executive director, said: “There is good news - Sheffield is the number one city in the country for specialist manufacturing and the amount of specialist companies.

“We estimate 12,000 jobs will be created in the new enterprise zones, although these will not only be in Sheffield, but also Rotherham and Markham Vale, north Derbyshire.”

Other positives highlighted in the report include higher levels of graduates staying in Sheffield than in any other major UK city.

n For full details of the report and reaction, see pages 8 and 9.