Unemployment falls again as self-employment surges

Unemployment fell to 6.9% between December and February, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Unemployment fell to 6.9% between December and February, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Employment statistics were boosted by a huge rise in self employment of 146,000. The number of men working full-time increased by 131,000 to reach 14.12 million, while for women working full time the figures rose by 34,000 to reach 8.09 million. .The number of men working part-time increased by 9,000 to reach 2.17 million, with the number of women working part-time increasing by 65,000 to reach 6.00 million.

Pay including bonuses for employees in Great Britain for December 2013 to February 2014 was 1.7% higher than a year earlier, with pay excluding bonuses 1.4% higher.

Mark Beatson, CIPD Chief Economist, said: "The latest statistics show that jobs growth in the labour market remains strong, with employment increasing by 239,000 in the three months December 2013-February 2014 and a fall of 77,000 in unemployment, which is now below 7% for the first time in exactly five years.  The unemployment figures, in particular, have varied from month to month recently.  These are three month average figures based on sample surveys and they will vary from month to month.  The important point is that the trend is still for more jobs and less jobless."

He added that pay appeared to have risen only because of falling inflation and rises in bonuses and was patchy according to sector.

Nigel Meager, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said: "The ongoing surge in self-employment continues apace. It is up by another 146,000 in the quarter to a new record of over 4.5 million. Over the last two years the number of employees grew by 3 per cent, but the number of self-employed by a dramatic 9 per cent. Key questions surround whether this reflects a wave of new business creation, or whether, as some have suggested, it mainly consists of a motley collection freelancers aiming to keep a toehold in the labour market until they are able to return to regular employment. Most likely it is a mixture of both, but one notable feature of the recent self-employment growth has been the extent to which it consists of people working part-time (traditionally, the self-employed have tended to work much longer hours than employees). It is also worth noting that the self-employed are not included in the average earnings statistics published today, and some recent analysis of self-employed incomes suggests that they have fallen even more in the recession than those of employees.”

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