Question-mark remains over falling jobless count

By Tony Hudson

Unemployment has continued its mystifying decline despite the troubled state of the UK economy.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures claim full-time employment has been on the rise over the last few months and over the past year had seen the biggest annual increase in full time employment since 2005.

Overall full-time employment has risen by 154,000 in the last three months and 394,000 over the past year. Since 1997, employment has increased by as much as 3.1 million.

Liam Byrne, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, conceded the news was "welcome" but insisted there was still much work to be done.

Jobs are extremely difficult to come by, he said, with more than five people applying for each available position.

"Youth unemployment has risen yet again, back towards the million mark, the number of women out of work has gone up and long-term unemployment is still far too high", he said.

"What Britain now needs from next month's Budget is an industrial strength back to work programme to match the crisis we face."

He also drew attention to wages being £1,200 lower, on average, than they were in May 2010 and called it "the price to get a job or keep a job".

Despite the UK job market strengthening towards the end of 2012, temporary jobs account for nearly a third of the recent increase in employment, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) pointed out.

"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", said Gerwyn Jones, the CIPD's labour market advisor.

With basic pay inflation running at a three and a half year low of 1.3%, Jones predicted "the living standards of employees will continue to fall given the Bank of England's expectations of higher inflation."

These numbers show the economy is experiencing "mixed blessings" on the slow road to recovery, he said.