Private sector boost fails to lift job market

 
Julian Harris
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PRIVATE sector jobs growth at the end of last year more than offset cuts in government jobs, official data showed yesterday.

However, the jobs boost was not enough to stop overall unemployment edging up from 7.9 to eight per cent, as the working age population grew by half a per cent.

According to more up to date figures, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits surprised analysts by dropping by 10,200 in February, to 1.45m, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed.

“The survey figures for unemployment often lag the claimant-count measure, suggesting that unemployment will stabilise or decline over coming months,” said Henderson’s Simon Ward.

Commercial sector jobs created between October and December totalled 77,000. In the government sector, 45,000 jobs were cut in the fourth-quarter of the year, although 6,000 of these were in publicly owned financial groups, such as RBS and Lloyds.

Compared to the fourth-quarter of 2009, public sector employment was down 123,000, excluding the banks. Private sector employment rose 428,000 over the same period.

“This is the biggest drop in public sector employment since 1994,” said Michael Saunders of Citigroup. “Yet this is being absorbed by stronger private sector hiring.”

The civil service headcount dropped by 8,000 to 506,000, the lowest recorded level since the Second World War, the Cabinet Office said. However, total public sector employment, excluding financial corporations, still totals 5.98m.

Total hours worked per week, across all sectors, rose by one per cent to 925.3m in the three months to January. The number of people working over the age of 65 reached 900,000 in the final quarter of 2010, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992.

However, there was worse news for younger people (aged 16 to 24), as youth unemployment leapt 0.8 per cent to a record 20.6 per cent.

Almost a million (974,000) young people are now unemployed, the figures showed.