Do latest employment figures mask the truth?

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jobscutsThe latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures have shown that the number of people in work has hit a record high in the three months to December 2012, reaching 29.73 million.

It also showed there was an increase of 154,000 from the previous three months and up 584,000 on the same period a year earlier.

Of the 29.73 million people in the UK in employment, the ONS states that 73% were working full-time and 27% were working part-time.

In addition to this, in the three months to December, the unemployment rate fell to 7.8% – down from 7.9% in the previous quarter, however youth unemployment did increase by 11,000.

Another blemish from the findings was the fact that redundancies were up over the quarter (17,000), an increase which some predict could feed through into unemployment in the months ahead.

Commenting on the results, Nigel Meager, Director at the Institute for Employment Studies, said:

“Overall, these figures show the continuing resilience of the UK labour market in generating jobs despite a macro-economic climate which, as measured by GDP figures, remains extremely subdued. The UK stands in contrast to developments in the Eurozone, where employment and unemployment figures are continuing to deteriorate.

“Many puzzles remain, however, when we look below the surface of these figures. The longer-term implications for UK labour productivity of the conflicting data on GDP and employment remain somewhat worrying, and there are many unresolved questions about the quality and sustainability of many of the new jobs now emerging.”

Gerwyn Davies, Labour Market Adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), also commented:

“The latest figures show that the run up to Christmas provided mixed blessings for employees and jobseekers, with buoyant recruitment but low pay growth.

“In line with the results of recent CIPD surveys, the UK jobs market strengthened significantly in the final quarter of 2012. However, the medium-term outlook remains less certain, as the public sector seems likely to continue to shed jobs and there are questions over the private sector’s ability to sustain this momentum unless economic growth resumes soon.”

He added:

“The recent private sector recovery is being driven by full-time employment but temporary jobs account for nearly a third of the last quarter’s increase in employment. As indicated in the latest CIPD/SuccessFactors Labour Market Outlook report, almost half of temporary employees (44%) would like a permanent contract, including a majority of temporary employees aged between 25-54.

“Today’s wage growth figures also demonstrate how employers have been able to support high employment levels against the backdrop of a stalling economy. With basic pay inflation now running at 1.3% – equalling a three and a half year low – the living standards of employees will continue to fall given the Bank of England’s expectations of higher inflation.”

Davies concluded:

“Taken together, today’s figures show the continued challenges employers face in retaining and motivating employees when their ability to offer higher pay or more job security is limited.”

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