Unemployment drops as firms pick up hiring

Tim Wallace
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UNEMPLOYMENT fell in the three months to February, official data showed yesterday, raising hopes that businesses are now confident enough in the economic recovery to take on more staff.

Joblessness fell 35,000 in the three-month period to 2.65m, down to 8.3 per cent from 2.685m in the three months to November.

The number unemployed for less than six months fell 52,000, while an additional 26,000 have now been out of work for over a year. Youth unemployment fell 9,000 to 1.03m in the three months.

A total of 53,000 jobs were created in the quarter, with men taking 52,000.

The rise leaves male unemployment down from 9.1 per cent to 8.8 per cent, while the female jobless rate is unchanged at 7.7 per cent.

Eighty-thousand more part time jobs were created, while the number working full time fell 27,000. The three months saw an 89,000 jump in the numbers working part time because they could not find a full time job, taking the total to 1.4m – the highest since records began in 1992.

The claimant count rose 3,600 in the three month period to a 27-month high of 1.613m. “It’s good news that 53,000 more people are in work now than three months ago, which shows that the private sector is gradually regaining confidence to hire,” said Neil Bently from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

“While this is the best jobs news we’ve had in a year, the government must step up its welfare reform programme – worryingly, over a third of those unemployed have been out of work for more than 12 months.”

“With youth jobless numbers still stubbornly high, helping young people find jobs must remain a joint priority for businesses and government.”

Meanwhile average earnings in the three months to February were just 1.1 per cent higher than in the same period of 2011 – the slowest growth rate since June 2010, and well below the 3.4 per cent rise in consumer prices in the year to February.

Average public sector pay now stands at £477 per week, higher than private sector earnings at £459.

Bonus pay fell sharply in the private sector in the three months to February, falling 5.4 per cent compared with last year, although it rose 2.9 per cent in the public sector.

Finance and business services were worst hit, with bonuses down 11.2 per cent on the same period of 2011.