Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Estate agents lead the way as UK economy enjoys a summer jobs surge

It’s one of those bumper months for official labour market statistics. This morning the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the latest quarterly household Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates for May-July 2013, Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claims for August 2013, the (largely employer based) Workforce Jobs estimates for June 2013, and public and private sector employment estimates for June 2013.     

This is by far the strongest overall set of official UK labour market figures this year and indicates that the summer surge in economic growth was accompanied by a jobs surge. Not only did the number of people in work increase by 80,000 in the quarter, according to the LFS Force Survey, but the ONS’s alternative quarterly survey of employers shows that businesses added 168,000 jobs between March and June. Moreover, all the quarterly net job growth was in full-time employment for employees on permanent contracts – the numbers of people working part-time (down 15,000), on temporary contracts (down 37,000) or self-employed (down 27,000) all fell.

Encouragingly almost all parts of the private sector added jobs, including manufacturing, but the stand out sector is real estate which saw a jump in employment of almost 10% (50,000) in the second quarter of the year, almost certainly a reflection of the recent resurgence in housing market activity.

The summer jobs surge was not matched by a corresponding fall in unemployment because more people entered the workforce. Indeed youth unemployment and male unemployment increased slightly (up 9,000 and 15,000 respectively), and the south of England performed generally better than the north. But the overall unemployment total did register a decent quarterly drop of 24,000 while the unemployment rate dipped to 7.7% (down from 7.8%), with the number of people long-term unemployed unchanged and the number claiming JSA falling by almost 33,000.       

The ONS figures also confirm that (adjusting for statistical reclassifications) the number of people employed in the public sector fell by 437,000 in the three years between June 2010 and June 2013. This already exceeds the initial (October 2010) Office for Budget Responsibility projection of 390,000 public sector job cuts for the entire five years of the current Parliament. With public sector employment set to continue to fall at a rate of more than 30,000 per quarter for several years to come, this illustrates the current speed and scale of public sector downsizing.

The ability of private sector job growth to easily offset public sector job cuts of this magnitude has been one of the most remarkable features of UK economic performance in recent years, though as today’s figures also make clear this is due in large part to the weakness of pay growth. The rate of growth of average earnings excluding bonuses fell from 1.1% to 1% between June and July. With unemployment still very high, pay increases show no sign of getting anywhere near the rate of price inflation any time soon – the big squeeze on living standards goes on and on.


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