Figures published by the Office for National Statistics show a significant rise in unemployment. Data released by the ONS and reported in a recent BBC article paints a gloomy picture with the number of unemployed people in the UK rising to approximately 2.5 million after an increase of 49,000 between September and the end of November last year.

To summarise the statistics taken from the article:-

  • The unemployment rate for the UK is 7.9%, however the increase in youth unemployment is of particular note - 20.3% of 16 to 24 year olds are without jobs.
  • The rise in youth unemployment to 951,000 from 32,000 marks a record high since monitoring began in 1992.
  • Figures for those working part time have risen to 1.16 million after an increase of 26,000 - again the highest recorded statistics since 1992.
  • Average earnings as at November 2010 have risen by 2.1%.
  • 1.46 million people claimed Jobseeker's Allowance in December 2010, a decrease of 4,100.
  • The number of unemployed men rose to 1.48 million due to an increase of 43,000 between September and the end of November 2010. The figures for women reached 1.02 million due to an an increase of 6,000.
  • The number of redundancies for this period increased by 14,000 to 157,000.
  • Average weekly pay rose by 1.9% in the private sector and 2.4% in the public sector, to respective figures of £449 and £469.

The prediction is that unemployment levels will continue to rise and may hit figures of 2.6 million over the course of the year. However, it has been reported that unemployment levels in Scotland are dropping, contrary to the UK wide situation. Whether this trend will continue remains to be seen.

One point which is of particular interest from an HR perspective is the very significant increase in part-time working. I suspect that the suggestion that this is related to the economic climate only tells half the story in that more and more employees are now choosing to work part-time for a variety of reasons including a wish for an improved work life balance. The Government's intentions to permit all employees to request a flexible working arrangement is likely, in my opinion, to see this trend continue.