Unemployment has fallen to 2.49 million, but the number of women who are unemployed remained static between September and November, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The figures show the number of unemployed men out of work and looking for a job fell by 37,000 to reach 1.41 million on the previous quarter, but the number of unemployed women was unchanged at 1.08 million. However, compared with a year earlier, the number of unemployed women fell by 45,000.
The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) fell by 12,100 between November and December 2012 to reach 1.56 million, says the ONS. There were over 1 million men claiming JSA, but the number of women claimants was much lower at 537,900. Many unemployed women cannot claim JSA as their partners are in work.
The figures show the number of people working full-time increased by 113,000 to reach 21.57 million and the number of people working part-time fell by 23,000 to reach 8.11 million.
The ONS also released figures showing that in the last five years the number of people working full-time fell by 341,000, the number of people working part-time increased by 660,000 and the number of unemployed people looking for work and able to work increased by 854,000.
In the last year the total number of people in work increased by 552,000, the biggest annual increase since 1989. The number of women working full-time increased by 77,000 between November 2011 and November 2012, and the number of women working part-time increased by 144,000.
Jim Hillage, Director of Research at the Institute for Employment Studies, said: “While the continued rise in people in work can be seen as good news and employment and the total hours worked in the economy are now back above its pre-recession levels, GDP remains 4 per cent below pre-recession levels.
“Employers are able to take on more people because real wages have fallen steadily over the past three to four years. However, there has not been a commensurate increase in output and therefore productivity per hour has also fallen as hours worked have risen.
“While it is good that there is more labour activity in the economy, as work is generally good for people’s well-being, there is a real concern that, contrary to what the Government would like, the economy is starting to follow a lower productivity, lower wage trajectory. This is unlikely to be a successful route to sustained higher levels of economic growth in the long-run.
Mark Beatson, Chief Economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said: “The latest statistics show that the UK labour market continued to perform strongly last autumn. Unemployment has fallen back below 2.5 million on the back of continued strong jobs growth, specifically in full-time positions. Employers’ continued willingness to recruit and retain staff in the face of uncertain demand conditions will in part be due to continued pay moderation in both the public and private sector. This has helped maintain competitiveness even during a period of weak productivity growth, as evident in the latest figures for unit labour costs, which fell in the third quarter of 2012.
“However, a continuing source of concern is the labour market position of young people. Compared to last month’s figures, the number of unemployed 18-24 year olds has increased whereas unemployment in age groups 25-64 has fallen. If this trend continues we risk a permanent scar on the labour market. It is in employers’ interests to build their future skills base by recruiting the next generation of workers. But it is also important that young people receive the right careers advice and support necessary to enable them to benefit from employment growth.”