UK jobs market stable as economy begins to pick up
14 Aug 2013
Nigel Meager, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies, comments on today's ONS Labour Market Statistics:
‘Today's data release from the Office of National Statistics is broadly positive, with most of the labour market indicators showing slight improvements.
‘The official headline unemployment figure fell very slightly over the quarter (by 4,000), and there was also a fall of 29,000 in the monthly claimant count figure. Unfilled vacancies recorded another slight increase over the quarter, a further sign of labour demand picking up.
‘These small signs of improvement are consistent with the recently recorded upturn in GDP growth data.
‘It's not all good news, however. We should note that although unemployment didn't rise by nearly as much as most economists expected during the current economic depression, it still surged by nearly a million and has been stuck at or around the 2.5 million mark for just over four years, and that's where it still is.
‘One reason unemployment didn't increase further was because real wages fell by an unprecedented amount during this period, and this squeeze on living standards is undoubtedly continuing to dampen the economic upturn. Another reason is because of the well-documented growth in 'under-employment', manifested in zero-hours contracts, involuntary part-time work, casual work and the like.
‘The flip side of this coin is that as economic growth returns, it may take a while to feed through into big falls in unemployment because there are already large numbers of people in work willing or even desperate, to increase their working hours. Consistent with this, it's interesting to note that while total employment has increased by 1.0% over the past year, total hours worked in the economy have increased twice as fast (by 2.0%).’
The Institute for Employment Studies is the UK’s leading independent, not-for-profit centre for research and evidence-based consultancy on employment, the labour market, and HR policy and practice.
About Nigel Meager
Nigel is a labour economist by training, and a well-established international expert on labour market and employment policy issues. He has worked at IES since 1984, following posts at the Universities of Bath and Glasgow. He has been Director of the Institute since 2004. He has a long and varied research track record covering the functioning of national, regional and local labour markets, unemployment, skill shortages, labour market flexibility, changing patterns of work and equal opportunity policies and practices.
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