Recession Report #16: a better than expected labour market, but underemployment continues to rise
Today we’ve published our 16th and final Recession Report. From next month we will be moving to a shorter monthly Labour Market Report and a bi-monthly Economic Report. The latest labour market figures cover the
period October to December 2009, and show that 2,457,000 people were unemployed by the ILO measure − down 1,000 (effectively unchanged) compared with last month’s release, which covered September – November. Youth unemployment fell a little, with 725,000 18 – 24 year olds unemployed – 3,000 fewer than last month. Overall, these are quite good results – especially the fall in youth unemployment – but it is far too early to say we no longer need to worry about employment.
The continuing rising trend for involuntary part-time and temporary work is a sign of serious weakness. 34.6% of all temporary workers wanted a permanent job and there are currently 591,000 women and 450,000 male involuntary parttime workers. And growth in long-term unemployment is also a real cause for concern – while unemployment of up to 6 months looks as if it may be starting to level off, unemployment of over 12 months is continuing to rise.
In the second section of the report we review the impact that the downturn has had for women. The analysis shows that recent decades have seen enormous change for women at work. Larger proportions of women
than ever before are in employment and the number of women describing themselves as economically inactive as a result of looking after a home or family has been consistently declining – a trend that, in contrast to previous downturns, has continued during the recession. However, over 1.2 million women who are economically inactive say they would like a job – a figure that is likely to reflect factors including unmet demand for more flexible working opportunities and for quality affordable childcare.
The downturn has had a variety of impacts for working women. More men than women have lost their jobs during the recession, and the rate of male unemployment has increased faster than the female rate. However, in many sectors (including finance and business services and hotels, restaurants and distribution and manufacturing) men and women have seen similar proportional falls in jobs. The key reason that fewer women have so far been made unemployed is therefore not that their jobs are intrinsically safer, but that more (around 40% of female employees nationally) work in public sector occupations where large scale redundancies have not taken place. Should large scale public sector cuts take place, particularly in areas that already have high male unemployment, large numbers of working families therefore could face significant financial hardship.