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Unemployment down but sharp rise in part-time work
2:42pm Wednesday 17th October 2012 in Business
A DROP in the region’s jobless total has been welcomed despite fears that many of the jobs being created are low paid and part-time.
The latest quarterly figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that North-East employment levels are now at their highest rate for two years and that unemployment at its lowest level for 15 months.
In total, 129,000 people are looking for work in this region, which was a fall of 11,000 over the quarter and 14,000 over the year. The claimant count, which shows the number of people drawing Jobseeker’s Allowance, stands at 94,300 or 7.7 per cent in the North-East, compared to 4.8 per cent nationally.
In the period, 88,000 full time and 125,000 part time jobs were created across the UK.
North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) director of policy, Ross Smith, said: “It is encouraging that the job statistics are moving in the right direction, with more people finding jobs as regional unemployment continues to fall at a pace that outstrips the UK average.
“These figures back up the findings of the most recent NECC Quarterly Economic Survey, which showed businesses in the region growing their workforce at a faster rate than any point since recession began in 2008.
“The gap between the North-East and national rates for both indicators that had opened up in that time has now closed as well. This is a clear demonstration that our private sector is overcoming the impact of public sector job losses over the last two years.
“It is vital we maintain our current trajectory. There is still a three percentage point gap on employment with pre-recession levels, which is similar to the rest of the UK, and shows there is more work to be done on labour market issues. A relentless focus on skills is critical to addressing this.”
However, union leaders believed the upbeat figures hid a worrying trend.
Kevin Rowan, regional secretary of the Northern TUC, said: “What we know on the ground is that many of these jobs that are being created are low-paid and part-time when many people need full-time work.
“With around 90 per cent of the government’s planned cuts still to be implemented I have real fears that even a modest recovery will not be able to easily withstand their impact. There are more and more forecasts that unemployment will go up rather than down in 2013 which indicates the economy is not yet on the path towards a genuine and sustainable recovery that works for working people.”
Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey said: “Hidden behind the statistics is the stubborn underlying problem of the long-term unemployed, whether it is the 16-to-24 year olds or other groups seeking work. It is those areas that ministers need to concentrate on as a matter of urgency.
“The economy overall is flat-lining, household incomes are being squeezed and demand has been sucked out of the economy.
“The UK is still in recession, so there is nothing for the government to crow about.
“The Joseph Rowntree Foundation reports that up to 66 people are chasing every retail job and last week when car giant, JLR offered 1,200 jobs, 20,000 people went for them – this means that there is hardly a jobs’ Eldorado out there."