The United Kingdom was awash with positive economic indicators this week, even though the latest employment and unemployment statistics were a little puzzling. The headline statistics issued by the Office for National Statistics revealed that in the three months up to January 2010 total unemployment dropped by 33,000 to 2.45 million. Long term unemployment, however, rose by 61,000 to 687,000. In February the number of Jobseeker's Allowance claimants fell by 32,300 to 1.59 million; unemployment in the 18-24 age bracket was down 34,000 to 715,000, but this was counterbalanced by a rise in the jobless figures for the over 50s, which rose by 14,000 to 398,000.
The ONS' regional snapshot displayed a mixed picture, with unemployment up in Scotland, Wales, the North West, North East and East Midlands, but down in Northern Ireland, the South East, South West, London, Yorkshire/Humberside and the West Midlands.
At the same time, the number of people in employment also fell by 54,400 to 28.86 million as a rising number of people were classes as ‘economically inactive'.
With the political parties arguing about the best ways to support the economy and create more jobs, experts such as John Philpott of the CIPD offered a balanced assessment:
"Unemployment is sharply down, however you measure it. Yet there also 54,000 fewer people in work, with full-time jobs particularly hard hit.
"The apparent paradox is explained by a very sharp rise of 149,000 in the number of economically inactive people, with the number of students surging by 98,000. Jobless young people are thus turning to study in their thousands to avoid the dole."
Jeegar Kakkad, senior economist at the manufacturers' organisation EEF, offered an additional note of caution:
"Although the figures show that job losses in manufacturing are at their lowest since the recession began, the fall in employment increases the likelihood of a jobless recovery."
City recruiter Morgan McKinley's latest London Employment Monitor has once again given reasons to be optimistic to those looking for jobs in the City. Amongst the highlights of the latest survey was the news that new job vacancies in financial services rose by 13% (month of month) in February. Furthermore, job numbers were up 67% last month, compared to the same month last year - following the trend of the previous month. Professionals entering the jobs market last month rose by 29% (compared to last month and also the same month last year) and the average City salary was up 2% to £51,560.
Andrew Evans, Managing Director of Morgan McKinley's financial services division commented:
"There is a continued upward trend in job numbers, showing a similar sentiment to other economic indicators. The 13% rise in available job opportunities in February 10 is relatively modest as anticipated, underlining that we are likely to see a gradual improvement in the hiring market over the year rather than a strong rebound. However, new job vacancies were up 67% on February 09 figures, a similar rise to January 10 versus January 09.
"The number of financial services professionals looking for new opportunities has risen, and we are seeing a greater appetite to consider a job move from professionals who are currently in work. Our latest survey highlights career development as the reason that most people would move jobs, ahead of a better salary or bonus."
"We remain more positive about the outlook for the financial services jobs market compared to a year ago, however the depth of the recession in financial services should not allow for any complacency and the jobs market is still at a delicate stage of growth."