The new labour market figures from the Office for National Statistics show continued, if cautious, optimism amongst employers, with unemployment falling again and employment and total hours worked increasing.
Self-employment also grew significantly to a record 4.2 million people. Youth unemployment, however, rose again – by 11,000 – as did the number of redundancies (17,000).
The UK’s famous ‘jobs enigma’ appears to be sustaining itself, at least for the time being: jobs are being generated against the backcloth of an extremely subdued macro-economic environment, as measured by GDP figures.
The director of the Institute of Employment Studies, Nigel Meager, sounded a cautious note, however, saying: “The longer-term implications for UK labour productivity of the conflicting data on GDP and employment remain somewhat worrying, and there are many unresolved questions about the quality and sustainability of many of the new jobs now emerging.”
Beneath the headline figures, there was encouraging news for jobbing Umbrella Company Employees. Zain Wadee, MD of the specialist recruitment firm hyphen, noted that there had been a significant growth in the number of contracting and temporary roles in the last quarter, as more employers seek to build a flexible workforce to manage business demands.
Mr Wadee added: “Many people like the flexibility and variety temporary work provides and we are also seeing growing numbers of job seekers actively take these roles and use the experience gained to assist with finding future permanent positions.”
The REC’s director of policy and professional services, Tom Hadley, pointed out that demand for highly skilled engineering, IT and management candidates was outstripping availability in the UK, and that employers may need to take on inexperienced but able candidates to fill these roles.