Jobs: 'Don't get carried away by falling unemployment'

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AN increasing number of men working part-time and signs that women are sufering due to public sector cuts means joy over a falling unemployment tally should be muted, say job market watchers.

Official figures released last week showed employment rose by 53,000 in the three months to February and unemployment fell for the first time since May 2011, by 35,000.

Dr John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said the labour market didn't just stabilise at the turn of the year it grew, albeit very slightly.

However, although Dr Philpott said the news suggests the economy will have avoided a dip back into recession it is "far too soon to rewrite the jobs forecasts".

He said: "The rise in employment and fall in unemployment is mainly due to a sharp quarterly rise in the number of men working part-time, the vast majority doing so because (they have been) unable to find full-time work. By contrast the number of women in work was broadly unchanged with female unemployment rising slightly. Indeed, these latest figures mark a change from the pattern of male and female employment growth seen throughout most of 2011 and may be the first clear sign that public sector job cuts are finally starting to have an adverse effect on women’s job prospects.

“With the number of women in work at best flat-lining, and many men and women unable to find full-time jobs, it would be unwise to get too excited by a welcome fall in unemployment. A properly recovering jobs market is not characterised by a growing army of underemployed part-timers and pay rises still falling well short of price inflation.”

But bosses organisation the CBI took the numbers as an indication that the private sector is 'gradually regaining confidence to hire'. But Dr Neil Bentley, CBI deputy director-general, warned that helping young people find jobs must remain a joint priority for businesses and government.

Business leader Liz Field, chief executive of Financial Skills Partnership warned businesses to learn the lessons of the last recession and not starve their organisations of investment in talent. She said: “If businesses stop investing in the attraction, retention and development of talent, their growth could be seriously hampered.

"It is time that businesses stopped thinking about skills as merely an HR matter, and started to think of their talent as a powerful route to growth, profitability and competitiveness."