Green shoots for Britain’s jobs market

Julian Harris
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BRITAIN’S labour market has rallied in recent months, official data unexpectedly revealed yesterday.

Employment shot up by 143,000 from December to February, compared to the previous three months, the Office for National Statistics revealed. Unemployment is down to 7.8 per cent, having dropped by 17,000 over the same period.

“Plus, the level of redundancies fell 19 per cent quarter-on-quarter, which is 18 per cent below the 2000-07 average,” noted Citigroup’s Michael Saunders. “All this is occurring despite sizeable cuts in public sector employment,” he said.

Slightly over two per cent of the government sector workforce was cut last year, removing 132,000 jobs. The private sector created 428,000 jobs over the same period.

“There is little evidence in the jobs data that the economy is suffering a soft patch,” Saunders added.

Claims for unemployment benefit narrowly increased in March, however, by 700 claims. Over the previous 12 months, the claimant count dropped by 88,700.

There are currently 1.45m people claiming benefits in the UK, with many young people still missing out on the prospects offered by the UK’s job growth.

Of 390,000 extra jobs created from the first-quarter of this year, compared to the first three months of 2010, “only 8,000 reflects people aged under 25 years,” Saunders said.

There were 963,000 unemployed 16 to 24 year olds in the three months to February -- compared to 974,000 in the three months to January, marking a slight improvement.

Wage growth, however, remained very weak in the three months to February.

Total pay was up just two per cent compared to a year earlier. Regular pay, which excludes bonuses, was up by 2.2 per cent – still considerably below the rate of inflation.