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REC & CIPD Respond

REC response to latest jobless figures

Responding to today's ONS unemployment figures which show a fall of 3,000 to 2.46 million, Kevin Green, Chief Executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) says

"This is good news and supports the feedback weve had from members who have reported an increase in recruitment activity over recent months. Improving employer confidence is resulting in a more positive outlook on hiring intentions over the coming year, but the UK jobs market remains fragile. There are real concerns that the squeeze on public expenditure will counteract some of these positive trends, particularly in regions that are heavily dependent on public sector jobs."

Commenting on the TUC argument that the UK jobs market looks "deceptively healthy" because of an increase in temporary and part-time work, Kevin Green concludes:

"There is nothing 'deceptively healthy' about the fact that temporary work provides an important bridge back into employment and helps to develop the skills, experience and confidence to access permanent job opportunities. Flexible working options provide real benefits for job-seekers as well as for employers they must be recognised not stigmatised. With regards to part-time jobs, it is true that some employers have reduced hours rather than make redundancies. In these cases, employers will increase the hours of existing staff before they recruit new staff which is another reason that the road back to full employment will be long and tortuous."

The REC's latest JobsOutlook survey, also published this week, confirmed the trend of increasing employer confidence with only two per cent of businesses saying they expect to make further cutbacks. This is the lowest number seen since the monthly survey began last year. Overall, 94 per cent of employers expect either to maintain or grow their permanent workforces over the next 12 months with one in four employers planning to increase their temporary workforce in the next year.

The survey also highlights specific attributes which employers are looking for from new recruits as they start to lift recruitment freezes with communication and interpersonal skills topping in the list.

Jobless figures confirm extreme fragility of labour market

Dr John Philpott, Chief Economic Adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) comments as follows on official labour market statistics published earlier today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS):

The latest unemployment figures show that conditions in the UK labour market remain extremely weak and indicate that talk of the jobless rate having already peaked is premature. Moreover, separate analysis by the ONS showing that 2.8 million UK workers are underemployed shows that the headline jobless figures provide only a partial account of the full impact of the recession on the workforce.

The 3,000 fall in unemployment on the Labour Force Survey measure for the period October-December is miniscule and must be seen in the context of a corresponding fall of 12,000 in the number of people in work and a rise of 72,000 in the number of economically inactive people. The latter rise is due mainly to a jump in the number of students highlighting the degree to which young people are turning to study to avoid the dole.

Most disappointing is the 23,000 January increase in the number of people unemployed and claiming jobseekers allowance, which comes after a short period in which the claimant count has been falling. Januarys rise in the count is explained by a drop in the number of people flowing out of unemployment rather than an increase in fresh benefit claims, which suggests that recruitment activity weakened at the start of the year.

Todays employment and unemployment figures confirm that the UK jobs market is still in an extremely fragile state. New official estimates of underemployment also show that the pain of the recession is much deeper than the headline numbers indicate. With a weak economic recovery set to result in further job losses in the coming months it is highly likely that the unemployment situation will get worse before it starts to get significantly better.

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