Drop in unemployment boosted by part-time odd jobbers

Unemployment falls again but double dip labour market only boosted by ‘part-time odd jobbers’

Dr John Philpott, Chief Economic Adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), comments as follows on official labour market statistics for the period January – March 2012 published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS):

“These are odd figures best explained by a surge in part-time odd jobbing. A sharp quarterly rise of over 100,000 in the number of people in work combined with another welcome fall in joblessness is remarkable for an economy that dipped back into recession at the start of the year. Such an outcome would normally be a sign of economic recovery. However, while optimists might conclude that this casts doubt on the reliability of the most recent official GDP growth figures, a more sober assessment is that a very weak economy is managing to keep unemployment in check only by maintaining a severe squeeze on the size of pay packets and creating enough low productivity work to allow people to avoid the dole by doing the odd part-time job here and there, either as employees or on a casual self-employed basis.

“While a weak double dip labour market might be able to sustain enough odd jobbing to prevent unemployment hitting the 3 million mark, the combination of a growing army of underemployed odd jobbers, 2.63 million people unemployed and pay rises still lagging well behind price inflation suggests that the underlying employment situation is worse than at any point in at least the past two decades.”

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