UNEMPLOYMENT plunged again in the three months to November, official figures showed yesterday, defying fears of a triple dip recession and bringing fresh hope that the economy is on the mend.
Employment jumped 90,000 to a new record high of 29.68m while unemployment dropped again to 2.49m. Full time employment drove that increase, rising by 113,000, while the number of people in part time employment dipped by 23,000.
That sent hours worked soaring 3.3 per cent to 364.9m per week, and the number of part time workers unable to get a full time job dropped by 23,000 to 1.38m. But youth joblessness edged up by 1,000.
Despite the positive figures, GDP is still expected to have fallen in the final three months of 2012.
“It remains a puzzle that an economy showing basically flat growth is generating a rise in total hours worked of 2.3 per cent on a year earlier. The apparent continued decline in service sector productivity remains a bit odd,” said BNP Paribas economist David Tinsley.
Part of the reason for such a sustained rise in employment may be the low rise in pay – incomes rose 1.5 per cent in the year, hitting £472 per week in November, well below inflation at 2.7 per cent.
Recruiters Robert Half forecast a strong start to 2013, with professionals particularly likely to benefit from strong hiring. Its study shows 23 per cent of directors expect to take on more staff in the first half of the year while only nine per cent expect firings.
The Association of Graduate Recruiters predicts a nine per cent rise in vacancies for university leavers this year, as well as a two per cent rise in average starting salary to £26,500.
And the British Retail Consortium’s latest figures show a one per cent rise in employment in the sector in the year to December, despite the industry’s problems.