Recruitment & employment organisations comment on unemployment statistics
Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, said, “Unemployment is falling, but the lifeblood of our future workforce – school and university leavers – aren’t yet feeling the benefits. Unemployment among 16-24 year olds has been largely static since the summer.
“The pension freedoms dominating today’s announcement are an obvious attempt to win older Brits over. But the younger generation hasn’t been forgotten, and has been handed a sweetener in the form of a minimum wage increase along with a 20% wage hike for apprentices.
“This should help encourage more young apprentices, but alone it may not be enough to fight youth unemployment up and down the country. Our latest Jobs Report showed that of the 16,107 apprenticeships in the UK currently, almost a third (28%) are in London and the South East. Now we need an injection of new apprenticeships in the North – where there are jobs on offer, but a skills gap still prevails. An apprenticeship hub in the South isn’t remedying this situation.
“No matter who comes into power in May, one thing is desperately needed. Extra incentive for employees in the North to go out of their way to grow new talent from the ground up. A little long-term thinking on apprenticeships will go a long way.”
David Kern, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said, “The latest job figures continue to show that the UK labour market goes from strength to strength. They also support our forecast that the pace of economic growth will edge up slightly in the first quarter of 2015.
“After a setback last month, it is positive that youth unemployment has resumed its decline. We have made impressive progress in this area, but while the youth unemployment rate remains significantly higher than the adult employment rate, we must avoid any action that could hamper progress.
“It is also good news that the annual rise in earnings is considerably higher than that of prices, however the pace of earnings growth is not accelerating. The Bank of England must make clear that the current low level interest rates will be maintained until early 2016 to support business growth and investment.”
Mark Beatson, chief economist for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said, “These figures suggest that we entered 2015 with favourable employment conditions.
"Although employment growth is not quite as strong as it was last summer, jobs growth of 600,000 a year is still a very high rate of growth by historical standards. In addition, most of the last year’s jobs growth has been full-time and with employee status. Unemployment is now at 5.7% and, when we see the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast accompanying the Budget, it will be interesting to see how much further the OBR think it can fall.
“Wage growth remains subdued at a three month average of 1.6% excluding bonuses and real pay is growing. However, this is because of low inflation, which is expected to be a temporary situation. UK workers will not see sustained real pay increases until we see sustained growth in our productivity.
“Today’s Budget must do more to address skills and productivity. Now that more people are in work we need to help businesses develop and train them and help them to offer their people more hours if they want them. Part of this involves looking at National Insurance contributions for both employers and employees. This will open up more money for businesses to invest in the infrastructure and skills they need to succeed. If the Chancellor can show progress on this today, it will be a step in the right direction for addressing the UK’s productivity deficit.”