Belfast Telegraph

Sluggish recovery threatens workers

By Russell Lynch

The Bank of England warned of “considerable uncertainty” over the labour market yesterday despite better recent news on jobs.

Its latest quarterly bulletin said there was a risk of rising dole queues if “the recovery in demand proves more sluggish than businesses have expected”.

The warning comes despite improving official data from the labour market, showing a 3,000 fall in unemployment between October and December to 2.46m.

Latest Northern Ireland figures put the claimant count at 56,100 after 1,400 more people claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance in January.

The Bank of England highlighted several risks facing the jobs market including a weak recovery, job cuts through public sector belt-tightening, and more firms going under if lenders take a harsher stance on struggling companies.

Greater confidence over the outlook among staff could also make them less willing to accept a further squeeze on wages and force companies to shed labour, it added.

Although the economy contracted by a record 6.2% during the recession, unemployment rose by far less than the slump of the early 1990s.

The Bank put this down to factors such as falling unionisation among workforces, and greater flexibility among staff over accepting pay freezes or shorter hours to prevent a wider jobs cull.

The labour pool also fell less than in the 1990s as uncertainty over pensions following the crisis encourages older people to defer retirement.

Worries over the jobs market may also have implications |for the economy, the Bank |added.

“Further job losses may lead households to increase their precautionary saving to insure against loss of work. That will mean households have less money available to spend on goods and services.

“And if some people suffer an extended period of unemployment, they may be unable to retain or acquire the skills sought by employers, limiting the recovery in output,” it said.

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