JOBLESSNESS fell again from its November peak, new data showed yesterday, but youth unemployment hit a new high.
Unemployment stood at 2.666m in the three months to January, down 5,000 on the same period to December and 19,000 a month earlier, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed, though the changes are small enough that unemployment held at 8.4 per cent.
“Optimism among employers is by no means strong, but it is starting to return,” said Yakub Zolynski from recruiters Market Mavens.
“Over the past month or so, more companies have committed to taking on senior staff, which bodes well for employment numbers.”
There was a large shift towards part-time employment, which rose 59,000 while full-time employment fell 50,000. An additional 110,000 part-time workers said they could not find full time work, taking the total that want to work longer hours to a record 1.38m.
Youth unemployment rose 16,000 in the three-month period to 1.04m, or 22.5 per cent of economically active 16 to 24-year olds – the highest level since records began in the late 1980s, prompting more calls for action from George Osborne in his Budget next week.
“We cannot afford to see fresh records broken in youth joblessness with such depressing frequency,” said Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress.
“Bold new measures such as a youth jobs guarantee and tax breaks for investment are needed to get our economy growing again.”
Employment minister Chris Grayling agreed, saying businesses need support to keep creating jobs.
By gender, male employment fell 2,000 while an additional 10,000 women were in work in the three months to January.
The private sector created 45,000 jobs in the final quarter of 2011, outstripping the 37,000 fall in public sector employment and leaving a rounded gain of 9,000 jobs.
Of those public sector job losses, 33,000 were in local government, while central government employment increased by 3,000 in the quarter – though the figures are slightly skewed as academy school staff count as central government employees, pushing up that headcount and diminishing local payrolls.
Over the twelve months to December, public sector layoffs outstripped private sector job creation, as 270,000 state jobs were lost while private employment rose by only 226,000 jobs.