The Office for National Statistics today announced that the number of unemployed people in the UK has risen to 2.67 million – an increase of 48,000 in the three months up to December.
The ONS also revealed another record figure – the number of 16-24 year olds out of work increased by 22,000 to 1.038 million, while the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance rose by 6,900 to 1.6 million. Employment rose by 60,000 over the quarter and the number of inactive people fell by 78,000.
The CBI’s director-general John Cridland accepted that the number of people out of work was still worrying, but pointed out that the private sector continued to create jobs.
He commented: “This month’s data confirms the tentative signs we saw last month of a recovery in private sector hiring. The total number of people employed has risen again.”
Mr Cridland was also positive about the Government’s new Youth Contract programme. He said: “[The programme] will help tackle the effects of unemployment by incentivising firms to employ young people, so I urge businesses to take advantage of the subsidy when it becomes available in April.”
The ONS statistics showed that the number of vacancies at small firms (one to nine employees) has risen 5.7 per cent over the year or 10.5 per cent on the quarter. Vacancies at firms with 10 – 49 employees were up 15.6 per cent per year and 8.7 per cent on the quarter – representing a paradox of sorts.
Arguing for the importance of focusing on vacancies at small businesses, chairman of Skilledpeople.com David Hiddleston said: “The feedback we have received from our site members is that [access to finance] directly affects recruitment with many small companies simply unable to afford salaried employees despite needing their skills.”
Director of recruitment consultancy Robert Half UK, Richard Baker, commented: “The Government’s ‘Youth Contract’ will play a key role in stimulating the jobs market.”
“It’s imperative that employers create opportunities for graduates, whether that comes in the form of an internship or training programmes, to ensure we avoid a lost generation of talent that will impact the modern workforce for years to come,” he added.