Cuts to local government workforce have offset increases in private sector employment in the 3 months to April (graphic: ONS)


Official unemployment figures show a sharp fall in the number of people working in the public sector as a result of Coalition government cuts.

Hardest hit have been local government workers (see table, below).

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of people employed in the private sector increased by 205,000 to reach 23.38 million but the number of people employed in the public sector fell by 39,000 to reach 5.90 million, the lowest figure since March 2003.

The number of people in work increased by 166,000 on the quarter to reach 29.28 million, which the ONS says is the largest quarterly increase since the middle of 2010.

However, that number was 291,000 lower than the pre-recession peak of 29.57 million recorded in March-May 2008.

With a total of 465,000 vacancies across the UK, it means an average of 5.7 people are chasing each available job.

However, that average disguises wide disparities in the ratios of vacancies to job seekers around the country, according to TUC figures.

The equivalent rate in Clackmananshire in central Scotland is 25.4.

In the London borough of Waltham Forest it is 15.2

The overwhelming majority of public sector job losses  – 33,000 – were in local government, says the ONS.

The figures also show that around 6,000 people moved from local government to central government during the period as a result of local authority controlled schools converting to Academy status (which are classified as belonging to central government).

Across the UK, the unemployment rate either fell or remained unchanged, apart from the N.East of England (up 0.5%), N.West (up 0.1%) and Northern Ireland (up 0.6%).

London had the highest overall rate in the country, at 9.7%.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “Today’s figures show some long overdue good news in the labour market. New full-time jobs have been created and employment is up while unemployment has fallen.

“However, there are still real concerns about this being a sustainable recovery.

“Long-term youth unemployment has risen yet again, the claimant count is still going up and while male unemployment fell by 52,000 in the quarter, the number of unemployed women only fell by 3,000.

“We now need to turn today’s positive news into a steady fall in unemployment.The government must invest in jobs to get the economy growing again.”

Others are demanding immediate political action, in the wake of the publication of the new jobless figures.

Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, said: “Unemployment of 2.61 million five years into recession is unacceptable, unnecessary and an unforgivable waste of human talents.

“Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Cable must conclude that Plan A to reduce the deficit to restore growth is not working and has stalled the recovery.

“We need an emergency budget to reflate the economy, to restore demand, which will get people back to work and reduce the deficit.”

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