UK unemployment falls while part time workers are on the up

Unemployment in the UK has fallen by 45,000 between January and March, taking the total of unemployed individuals to 2.63 million, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This takes the unemployment rate to 8.2 per cent of the economically active population, down 0.2 per cent on the previous quarter.

However, while the number of people in work rose by 105,000 to nearly 30 million, the figures reveal that the number of people in part time work increased by 118,000 since last quarter.

This takes the number of part time workers in the UK to 7.99 million - the highest figures since comparable records began in 1992 - fuelling concerns that many Britons are resorting to shorter hours because they are unable to find full time employment.

Employment minister Chris Grayling said: "These figures are a welcome step in the right direction. For a number of months now, employment has been growing and this is starting to feed through into improving unemployment figures"

However, the minister warned against future 'significant international uncertainty' saying the Government would continue to follow its current economic strategy and austerity measures to 'ensure unemployment continues to fall.'

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) voiced concerns over the latest figures which indicated a fall in earnings, with the annual growth rate in pay at 0.6 per cent - down 0.5 on the previous quarter and the lowest growth rate since May 2009.

The TUC's general secretary, Brendan Barber, said: "Today's figures are mixed, with the welcome fall in unemployment driven entirely by part-time jobs."

"However the collapse in wages is terrible news for people in work and threatens our chances of economic recovery. The falling number of full-time jobs and six per cent fall in real wages over the last two years means that people are having to make huge salary sacrifices and put their careers on hold just to stay in work."

John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said: "While a weak double dip labour market might be able to sustain enough odd jobbing to prevent unemployment hitting the 3 million mark, the combination of a growing army of underemployed odd jobbers, 2.63 million people unemployed and pay rises still lagging well behind price inflation suggests that the underlying employment situation is worse than at any point in at least the past two decades."

Other figures from the ONS revealed that youth unemployment fell by 17,000 over the last quarter to 1.02 million. The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance also fell by 13,700 to 1.59 million from March to April, the second consecutive monthly fall and the largest since July 2010.