Unemployment has officially fallen to its lowest level for 5 years, with economic output (though not output per person) about to reach its pre-recession level and growth rates predicted to return to around 3% for the next 2 or 3 years. The Coalition, fearing a hammering in this week’s local and European elections are anxious to persuade the electorate that the economy is returning to ‘normal’. This is far from the case however, hence Bank of England Governor Mark Carney’s comments that he’s in no rush to raise interest rates “for some time” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-27407561
In the post-crash labour market, the number of self-employed people has risen to 4.55 million with studies showing that the self-employed, particularly those forced out of wage or salaried employment, can end up earning up to 40% less. According to ONS, of the jobs added since March 2013, more than 50% have been for the self-employed. Add this to the 1.5 million people on zero-hours contracts, the 1.4 million working part-time because they can’t find full-time employment and you have just some of the reasons why average wage increases have now slowed to 1.3%, below the rate of inflation, adding to Mr Carney’s caution.
Meanwhile, Young People in the Labour Market provides a detailed report from the Office for National Statistics of the changing experiences of young people.
At the end of 2013 for example, youth unemployment measured by the proportion of young people available for work was about the same as in 1984. But by the end of 2013, 42% of young people between 16-24 were in full-time education –compared with 17% in 1984 (32% of 18-24 year olds compared with 8%). There has been a sharp increase in the size of the student population since 2008, despite rising tuition fees, but contrary to what many people think, the proportion working while studying has fallen since 2000, from 4 in 10 then to just above 1 in 4 now. 64% of full time students were not seeking or available to work.
The ONS data shows what happens when young people do enter the labour market. Of those not in full-time education, 19% work in elementary occupations and a further 17% in sales and customer services. Only about 8% of under 25 year olds work in professional jibs compared with 22% of 25-64 year olds. The question is, will working in jobs for which they may be over qualified provide valuable work experience and allow future career progression?
But it’s also still the case that the higher the level of qualifications held, the more likely you are to find a job, with ONS reporting that by the time they reach 24, only 8% of graduates are out of work compared with 12% of those only qualified to GCSE –though this should not be interpreted to imply that graduates are in jobs that they want!
Young People in the Labour Market also shows young people experience different outcomes depending on where they live. Hardly surprising, the South East has the highest employment rate -73% of young people compared to Northern Ireland with 61%; while in the North East, 1 in 4 young people not in full-time education are unemployed. Elsewhere in Europe the highest youth unemployment rate is 58% in Greece, the lowest being 8% in Germany. Though international comparisons are not always easy because different countries have different proportions of young people in full-time education –Germany, which offers apprenticeships to all those who want them, is the only country where young unemployment has fallen since the start of the downturn in 2008.