Dr John Philpott, Chief Economic Adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), comments as follows on official labour market statistics for the period December 2011 – February 2012 published earlier today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS):
“The jobs figures are a nice surprise. The labour market didn’t just stabilise at the turn of the year, it actually picked up very slightly. Employment is up and unemployment is down, as is youth unemployment. There are more job vacancies and hours worked have increased. This good news on jobs suggests that the economy will have avoided a dip back into recession in the first quarter, although whether the recovery strengthens enough to deliver a sustained fall in unemployment remains to be seen and it’s far too soon to rewrite the jobs forecasts.
“Moreover, it’s clear that the labour market remains in a fragile state. The rise in employment and fall in unemployment is mainly due to a sharp quarterly rise in the number of men working part-time, the vast majority doing so because unable to find full-time work. By contrast the number of women in work was broadly unchanged with female unemployment rising slightly. Indeed, these latest figures mark a change from the pattern of male and female employment growth seen throughout most of 2011 and may be the first clear sign that public sector job cuts are finally starting to have an adverse effect on women’s job prospects.
“With the number of women in work at best flat-lining, and many men and women unable to find full-time jobs, it would be unwise to get too excited by a welcome fall in unemployment. A properly recovering jobs market is not characterised by a growing army of underemployed part-timers and pay rises still falling well short of price inflation.”