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Women will fare badly as UK employment levels continue to fall at a faster pace than the US, says CIPD

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While US employment levels are set to gather pace, UK levels will continue to decrease for the first quarter of 2010, according to the CIPD.

The sharp fall in employment intentions in the UK public sector accounts for the difference, with net employment intentions falling to -33% (the difference between the percentage of employers expecting to employ more staff in the first three months of 2010 and the percentage expecting to employ fewer) in the public sector.   

The fall will have a disproportionate effect on female employment prospects. Until now women have fared better in the recession, as they make up a far higher proportion of the public-sector workforce than of the private sector.

Across all sectors, the UK survey records a negative balance of -5%.  This represents a modest fall compared with the -3% figure recorded in the previous quarter's report.  In contrast, the US Labour Market Outlook (LMO) records a positive balance of +11%, compared with +6% in the previous quarter, which is the most positive figure since the US version of the survey began a year ago. 

Just over a fifth (21%) of the UK workforce is in public-sector employment, whereas 17% of the US workforce is in public employment.

And according to the CIPD, the number of people in public-sector employment in the UK was 6.09 million in September 2009, up 23, 000 from June 2009 and up 910,000 from 1997.

The number of people in private-sector employment was 22.82 million, up 15, 000 from June 2009 and up 1.19 million from 1997. More than a third (35%) of the public-sector workforce was made up of women in the fourth quarter of 2009 while the figure for the private sector was around one in six (17%) over the same period.

The Society of Human Resource Management's (SHRM) US Labour Market Outlook survey, based on the same questions as the UK report, found approximately one in 10 (12%) US employers plan to cut jobs in the first quarter of 2010. This marks a reversal from the first quarter of 2009, when almost three-quarters (73%) of employers planned to make job cuts. The improvement is much less marked in the UK, where the number of organisations planning to make redundancies has fallen from 40% in the first quarter of 2009 to 28% in the same period this year.

Gerwyn Davies, CIPD public policy adviser, said: "Our comparison of the US and UK surveys show that employment prospects in the public sector will quite considerably weigh down the UK jobs market.   

"With a greater proportion of UK workers employed in the public sector, the jobs market in both countries looks set to drift in polar opposite directions as hundreds of thousands of public-sector job cuts are made in the next few years. This will have a greater impact on women - who make up more than a third of the total public-sector workforce compared to just one-sixth of the private sector - than on men and who until now have benefited hugely from the rapid expansion of the public sector since 1997. As a result, the next few years may see the worst employment prospects for women in a generation."