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Beware of patchwork jobs recovery, says academic

A polarisation of the jobs market, high youth unemployment and large regional variations mean the latest ONS figures are not as positive as they first appear, according to Warwick University professor and director for employment research Chris Warhurst.

The unemployment statistics released yesterday (17 December) revealed that unemployment has fallen to 6% in the UK, the lowest rate for six years. However, the rate at which unemployment is falling has slowed and the figure was slightly higher than the forecast of 5.9%.

Warhust believes there are also other factors that should concern employers and commentators. Youth unemployment remains high at 17% and a disproportionate number of the jobs created are in the South-East.

He also warned against complacency due to the continuing trend of large numbers moving from unemployment to self-employment.

"This self-employment is relatively low paying – today’s taxi drivers rather than tomorrow’s tech moguls. Most of the self-employed are in skilled trades, carpenters and joiners for example," he said.  

"With the economy not yet fully recovered, what is not clear is whether these new self-employed are the conscripts of the crisis or represent a new flush of entrepreneurial spirit in the UK. Whichever is the case, average income for the self-employed is also falling – down almost a quarter since the financial crisis."

City & Guilds Group CEO Chris Jones said that while the figures are encouraging, we should not allow them to lull us into "a false sense of security".

"Unemployment policy needs to be about more than tomorrow’s headlines, or winning the next election," he continued.

"If we are to build a truly robust economy, with opportunities for meaningful employment for everyone, we need better long-term planning of employment policy that takes into account where the skills gaps of the future will be."