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Niamh Corcoran, policy adviser, North East England Chamber of Commerce said: "The labour market figures published today are very concerning for the North East, with the region continuing to have highest unemployment rate in the UK. The region’s unemployment rate stands at 6.7% compared to the national figure of 4.8%.

Although the national figures indicate that vacancies are up and more people are actively looking for work, these figures mainly pre-date the implementation of further restrictions in the region which masks the true picture.

"Despite hopes for a vaccine in the coming year, we are unlikely to emerge from this crisis unscathed. The pandemic is causing sharply rising rates of joblessness, as well as accelerating longer-term economic shifts which could leave some job roles obsolete after the pandemic.

"With the UK in another lockdown, the extension of the furlough scheme is a welcome move from Government. However, the Government must also look ahead and act now to support people who have lost their jobs back into work or even new sectors of the economy. We need to see long-overdue investment in the adult skills system in the form of a comprehensive upskilling and reskilling strategy to help people into sustainable jobs."