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Jobless tally falls as part-time work increases
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A sharp rise in the number of UK males working part-time has helped cut the unemployment rate, it has been reported.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the jobless rate fell by 35,000 to 2.65 million between December and February.
The unemployment rate edged down from a 12-year high of 8.4 per cent to 8.3 per cent - the lowest level since the summer.
Dr John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said the jobs figures were "a nice surprise".
"The labour market didn’t just stabilise at the turn of the year, it actually picked up very slightly. Employment is up and unemployment is down, as is youth unemployment," he stated.
"There are more job vacancies and hours worked have increased. This good news on jobs suggests that the economy will have avoided a dip back into recession in the first quarter."
Although whether the recovery strengthens enough to deliver a sustained fall in unemployment remains to be seen," Dr Philpott stated.
One issue for the UK jobs market at present is the apparent lack of full-time positions for jobseekers.
Between December and February, the number of people having to settle for part-time jobs rose by 89,000 to 1.4 million.
This is the highest level of part-time employment since the ONS began publishing employment data in 1992.
Dr Philpott commented that the labour market "remains in a fragile state".
"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 are unable to find full-time work," he said.
"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."
This may be the first clear sign that public sector job cuts are finally starting to have an adverse effect on women’s job prospects, he suggested.
"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," Dr Philpott added.
"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."
Posted by John Lynes
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