I do think some of these figures are slightly misleading, as a lot of the rise is due to the retail sector taking on a lot of seasonal employees and also the jobless rate rose again in the north-east, to 9.8%.
A rapid growth in part-time jobs may prevent the jobless total rising above the 3 million mark after unemployment unexpectedly fell for the first time in 18 months in November.
The Office for National Statistics said the broadest measure of unemployment fell by 7,000 to 2.458 million, the first quarterly decline since May 2008, leaving the jobless rate at 7.8%. The narrower measure of people claiming unemployment benefits dropped by more than expected in December, falling by 15,200 to 1.61 million, the biggest drop since early 2007.
But the fall masked an increase in the number of people in the labour force who are neither working nor looking for work, with the inactivity total rising above 8 million for the first time since records began in 1971. The rise was largely driven by an increase of 81,000 in the number of students not looking for work.
Full-time employment fell by 113,000 to 21.2 million, while part-time employment did not rise fast enough to compensate, increasing by 99,000 to 7.7 million. As has been the pattern for months, the figures are being driven by women finding part-time jobs while men, predominantly, are losing full-time ones.
There was better news for the under-24s, who saw a fall in joblessness of 16,000 to 927,000, but that still left a fifth of young people out of work.
Other figures showed the number of people out of work for more than a year jumped 29,000 on the quarter to 631,000, the highest level since late 1997, as companies continue to shed jobs in the teeth of the UK’s worst recession since 1921. Today the power company E.ON announced the closure of a call centre in Essex with the loss of 600 jobs, while last week Bosch said it was closing its car parts factory near Cardiff, losing 900 workers.
Unemployment continues to hit regions of Britain differently. The jobless rate rose again in the north-east, to 9.8%, closely followed by the West Midlands on 9.6%. By contrast, the east and south-east had the lowest rates of any region, at 6.3% and 6.2% respectively.
The ONS also reported that wage growth slowed to the lowest on record at just 1.1% year-on-year, excluding volatile bonus payments in the three months to November. For November alone, private sector pay showed no growth at all from a year earlier.
Colin Ellis, economist at Daiwa Capital Markets, was concerned that wage growth had slackened and that it could affect consumer spending this year. “The rise in unemployment during this recession has undoubtedly been smaller than expected, which should support consumer spending. But the flipside of a smaller-than-expected adjustment in labour market quantities has been greater adjustment in terms of prices, with earnings growth weakening markedly.”
John Wright, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, warned that many of the jobs created in the run-up to Christmas might not last long. “Many small firms, especially in the retail sector, will have taken on seasonal staff to help them through the busy Christmas period. However, small businesses need help to make these seasonal jobs into permanent jobs and the government must lend a helping hand if small firms are to really tackle the challenge of rising unemployment,” Wright said.
Separately, minutes of the latest meeting of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee showed all nine members voted in January to keep interest rates at a record low of 0.5% and to maintain its £200bn quantitative easing scheme.
The MPC said signals were mixed but the economy appeared to be growing again, albeit weakly. It said large policy stimuli and a weaker sterling exchange rate were still the main supports for growth but noted powerful headwinds remained, as Bank governor Mervyn King had said in a speech on Tuesday.
Taken from guardian.co.uk