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ONS May figures offer some comfort to Government

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There was some slightly good news for the embattled Government from the employment figures published today by the Office for National Statistics, for the first quarter (January to March 2012).

The employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 70.5%, up 0.2 percentage points on the quarter. There were 29.23 million people in employment aged 16 and over, up 105,000 on the quarter. The quarterly increase in employment was entirely due to more part-time workers.

The unemployment rate was 8.2% of the economically active population, down 0.2 on the quarter. There were 2.63 million unemployed people, down 45,000.

Reacting to the news that unemployment had fallen by 45,000 between January and March, Bernard Brown, partner and head of business services at KPMG, said: “It’s great news unemployment is continuing to fall and the hope must be that we are beginning to see a trend moving in the right direction. However, we should be cautious about blowing the dust off celebratory bunting just yet because, even for those who have found full-time employment, earning power for new starters remains well below pre-recession heights.”

The employment rate for men aged from 16 to 64 was 75.6 per cent, up 0.3 percentage points on the previous quarter. The corresponding employment rate for women was 65.5 per cent, up 0.1 on the previous quarter.

Even in the troubled sector of youth unemployment, the unemployment rate for 16-to-24-year-olds was 21.9% in the three months to March 2012, down 0.3 percentage points from the three months to December 2011.

Gagandeep Prasad, associate at law firm Charles Russell, said: “These figures will, no doubt, be welcomed by the Government, looking for any good news in what is otherwise a bleak economic picture. While any increase in employment rates should certainly be welcomed, it is important to remember that this is a small decrease in a relatively large unemployment figure and that certain sections of society, such as the young and those working in the public sector (many of whom are women), still face a challenging employment environment.”