Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Number in work at all-time high

TUC leader Frances O'Grady says pay rises need to increase to match higher living costs

The number of people in work has reached an all-time high of almost 30 million, but a record number are working part-time because they cannot find full-time jobs, new figures have shown.

The employment total is the highest since records began in 1971 after a huge increase of 177,000 between the three months to June and the quarter to September.

At the same time, unemployment fell by 48,000 to 2.47 million, the lowest since the spring of 2011, while the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance was cut for the 12th month in a row in October, down by 41,700 to 1.31 million, the lowest for almost five years.

The number of people classed as economically inactive, including those looking after a sick relative, or people who have given up looking for work, also fell - down by 69,000 to 8.92 million.

But other data from the 0ffice for National Statistics showed that 1.46 million people were working part-time because they could not find a full-time job, an increase of 24,000 over the quarter, and the highest figure since records began in 1992.

Almost a third of working men are in part-time employment because they cannot find a full-time job, compared to 13% of women.

The number of men and women working full-time increased, but there was a 22,000 fall in women in part-time jobs.

Around 890,000 people have been out of work for over a year, down by 19,000, with just under half of those unemployed for more than two years, a fall of 15,000.

There were 950,000 unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds in the latest period, around a third of whom were in full-time education, a fall of 9,000, giving a youth jobless rate of 21%.

Average earnings increased by 0.7% in the year to September, down by 0.1% from the previous month.

Excluding bonuses, pay rose by 0.8%, the joint lowest since records began in 2001.

The UK's unemployment rate of 7.6% is lower than the European Union's average of 11%, with the highest rates in Greece (27.6%) and Spain (26.6%).

The lowest rates are in Austria (4.9%) and Germany (5.2%).

Minister for Employment Esther McVey said: "This Government is delivering on its promise to rebalance the economy, promote job creation, and support people to get off benefits and into work.

"Today's figures show that the number of people in work has risen by more than a million under this Government, with the growth driven by full-time private sector jobs.

"At the same time, the number of people claiming the main out-of-work benefits has fallen by almost half a million. There's more work to do, and we are not complacent, but these are all very positive signs."

In a message on Twitter, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "There are now 1.1m more people in work since the election - more proof our long-term plan for Britain is working."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Britain's workforce is getting larger but poorer.

"It is encouraging that more jobs are being created but job quality is falling and close to a 20-year low. A record number of people are stuck in part-time jobs because they can't find full-time work, while real wages continue to shrink fast despite falling inflation.

"We need better jobs and healthier pay rises to tackle the living standards crisis and ensure that the full benefits of recovery reach working people."

Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, said: "Mass unemployment of 2.47 million six years into the recession shows that getting people back to work has a very low priority in current economic policy.

"In the last few weeks alone, GMB members making steel, glass, rubber and ships have lost jobs on a large scale due to lack of demand for what they make. This entitles people to ask what sort of recovery is under way and when will it trickle down to get the unemployed back to work?"

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "This is another set of positive figures, confirming the flexibility and resilience of the UK labour market, and point to continued economic growth over the next year.

"The fall in the jobless rate is clearly more rapid than the monetary policy committee initially predicted in August, but this should not be seen as a failure of the forward guidance policy.

"Youth and long-term unemployment remain areas of concern that must be addressed, but it is good to see that the figures are now moving in the right direction. The Government must build on the progress made so far and support job creation, focusing in particular on more support for exporters and improving access to finance for growing businesses."

Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said: " Today's fall in unemployment is welcome, but families facing a cost-of-living crisis need a recovery that benefits them, and these figures show we are still far from achieving that.

"Prices have now risen much faster than wages for 40 of the 41 months since David Cameron became Prime Minister. On average, working people are now over £1,600 a year worse off under this out-of-touch Government.

"The employment figures give no cause for complacency. The number of people who want to work full-time but are stuck on part-time hours is at a record high. And youth unemployment is still at unacceptable and unaffordable levels."

Dave Prentis, leader of Unison, said: "Any fall in unemployment is welcome but these figures must be seen for what they really are. Underemployment is rife. "

John Allan, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: " These are strong jobs figures and build on recent positive trends. However, long-term youth unemployment remains a deep concern.

"The FSB's Small Business Index also suggests cause for optimism, with small firms expecting to take on staff in the coming three months. This is good news, but we would like to see Government do more to ensure that young people are prepared for today's labour market."

Felicity Burch, economist at EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, said: "Today's labour market figures add to an improving picture for the UK economy. The data also continues to show that manufacturers are offering jobs of a higher quality than in the rest of the economy overall.

"Companies of all sizes in manufacturing are offering better salaries, benefits and training than most, if not all, other sectors and, at a time when we need the brightest and best to enter the sector, we need to ensure that data which backs this up is more widely recognised."

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