The Office for National Statistics published its Labour Market Statistics today for the second quarter April to June 2012.

In general, the report delivers some encouraging news for jobseekers with an increase of 201,000 employed people in the three months to May 2012, bringing the total number of people in employment between the ages of 16 and 64 to 29.48million. To help place this figure in a positive context, the ONS notes that it is only 96,000 lower than the pre-recession high of 29.57million, recorded March to May 2008; and there are 251,000 more people in employment in the UK than in the same quarter in 2011.

The 201,000 increase is made up of 130,000 full time positions and 71,000 part time roles. This growth in full-time employment is promising because, in contrast, the increase in the employment rate for the previous quarter was entirely due to more part-time workers. Notably, this quarter’s part-time employment figure pushes the number of people in part-time employment to 8.07million, which the ONS confirms is “the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992”. Perhaps this particular ‘record’ statistic is a sign of the times as businesses continue to seek to reduce employees’ working hours rather than dismiss by reason of redundancy. If you have been following my blog, you will know that a recent Tribunal decision found that a reduction in hours can actually equate to a redundancy situation (in terms of the statutory definition).

On a positive note, job seekers can take some comfort from these unemployment figures – overall unemployment fell by 46,000 in the three months to June, coming in at 2.56million (a total of 8% of economically active people). Having said that, even with this 46,000 decrease, unemployment in the UK remains 51,000 higher than in the same quarter last year.

The number of unemployed 16 to 24 year olds is reported as a worrying 1.01million, although the situation is marginally improved with a fall of 4,000 from the previous quarter. This could suggest that the Government’s ‘Youth Contract’ initiative, announced earlier this year, may be starting to take effect. In an attempt to tackle youth unemployment, this scheme encourages businesses to take on unemployed 18 to 24 year olds through a variety of means such as job subsidies, work experience and apprenticeships.

The regional figures across the UK portray a similar story although Scotland is slightly outperforming the national averages for both employment and unemployment figures. Scottish unemployment is sitting just below the national average with 214,000 unemployed people accounting for 7.9% of the economically active population in Scotland. The 71.6% employment rate in Scotland is also marginally ahead of the national average (71%).

Furthermore, the ONS report places these figures in their international context, noting the staggering 24.8% unemployment rate in Spain (based on figures to 31 July 2012). The UK’s 8% unemployment rate is an improvement on the 10% total unemployment figure across the European Union. However, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg and the Netherlands lead the way with unemployment rates of just 4 or 5%.

At the very least, the headline figures are going in the right direction given that, in the three months to June 2012, the ONS has reported rising employment and declining unemployment from the previous quarter. Here’s hoping that this particular trend continues.

The full report can be found here.