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Unemployment may have peaked, says REC

Unemployment may have peaked, says REC
Todays unemployment figures published by the Office of National Statistics have shown a rise of 43,000 over the three months to February with the current number now standing at 2.5 million.
Commenting on this increase, Kevin Green, the RECs Chief Executive said: Despite positive figures in the last three months, it is clear that the jobs market is fragile. However, it is important to note that these figures are a lagging indicator of our dynamic labour market. The latest feedback from employers and recruiters confirms an increase in confidence and more hiring activity. The latest JobsOutlook survey shows that 96 per cent of employers expect to maintain or grow their workforces over the next three months.
Based on the data available, we predict that unemployment has peaked and that we will see a small reduction in the number of unemployed over the next quarter. The outlook for jobs market will then become dependent on how the incoming Government implements public sector constraints. We are stressing that whoever wins the election needs to focus on reform of public services rather than on simply slashing jobs.
Good and bad news in pre-Election snapshot of UK jobs market as headline unemployment hits 2.5 million, says CIPD
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) that update the UK Labour Force Survey (LFS) measures of employment, unemployment and economic inactivity to the quarterly period December 2009-February 2010, the count of people unemployed and claiming Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) to March 2010, and growth in average weekly earnings to February 2010:
The last set of official labour market statistics before the General Election contains a mix of good and bad news. Since this provides all three main UK political parties with something to seize on, these pre-Election jobs figures are unlikely to prove a game changer at the polls.
Labour can highlight a welcome further fall of almost 33,000 in March in the number of people claiming JSA. They can also claim that the 2.5 million headline unemployment figure is around half a million lower than most forecasters had expected this time last year and is vindication of the governments approach to supporting the economy through the recession and its intention to keep spending to stimulate the economy in 2010-11.
But the opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties can point to yet another quarterly fall, of 89,000, in the number of people in work, an increase to 1.046 million in the number of people working part-time because they cant find full-time jobs, and a quarterly 89,000 rise in the number of people unemployed for more than a year taking the long-term jobless total to 726,000.
Most significant of all, the latest rise in headline unemployment takes the overall jobless total to 2.5 million, 8% of the workforce. The situation would have looked worse had the number of economically active people i.e. those outside the jobs market - not also increased by 110,000 in the latest quarter. Students account for the bulk of the increase in the number of economically inactive, indicating the extent to which young jobless people have been turning to study to avoid the dole. Without a 71,000 quarterly rise in student numbers, youth unemployment (16-24 year olds) would have reached exactly 1 million, further fuelling fear of a lost generation. 
Even if the overall or youth jobless figures dont prove a vote clinching issue, come polling day, whoever is responsible for economic and employment policy in the next few years will struggle to combine the task of reducing the fiscal deficit with that of returning the UK economy to full employment any time soon.       
Samantha Weston, Head of Resourcing at Grant Thornton says, "Whichever party wins the election, it is vital that getting young people into employment is placed top of the agenda. The cost to young people is particularly great as prolonged periods of unemployment can have a long-lasting impact on their career.
"Today's figures show a rise in the number of unemployed people to 2.5 million. In addition, the rise in the number of inactive people may indicate that a significant number of young people have opted to go into further education. This group may pose a problem when they finish education as record numbers will graduate and if vacancies do not increase accordingly many will find themselves unemployed with high levels of debt.
"Grant Thornton is continuing to invest in young people and has increased its graduate intake and almost doubled the number of school leavers being recruited in 2010. The school leaver scheme offers an alternative path to professional qualifications for those who want to get straight into the world of work rather than go to university."


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