THE NUMBER of people in employment grew at the fastest rate since records began in the three months to July, official figures revealed yesterday – boosted by a surge in part-time workers as employers cut back on working hours.
Employment for the quarter rose by 286,000 to 29.16m, representing a 0.4 per cent rise in the rate to 70.7 per cent. This is the biggest quarterly rise since 1971, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
However, the figure was boosted by 166,000 part-time jobs, continuing a trend during the year for employers to rely increasingly on part-time workers.
Part-time workers now account for 27.2 per cent of total employment, up from 25.4 per cent as of mid-2008.
Despite the rise in employment, the number of Britons claiming jobless benefits in August rose for the first time since December 2009.
Overall, the claimant count rose by 2,300 last month, taking the total to 1.466m, and ending seven consecutive months of a decline in those claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance. This increase was entirely borne by women, the figures showed.
The mixed picture painted by yesterday’s data, especially the more recent claimant count figures, disappointed economists.
“The jump in part-time employment indicates that many companies are reluctant to add full-time workers amid serious concerns over the sustainability and longer-term strength of the recovery,” said economist Howard Archer at IHS Global Insight.
Although earnings growth picked up, it still remained subdued. Headline average weekly earnings rose 1.5 per cent in the three months to July up from 1.1 per cent in the quarter to June.
But stripping out the more volatile bonus component, core earnings growth rose to 1.8 per cent in July , a little stronger than expected.