Not all is rosy on employment front, but things are headed in the right direction
Published 28/02/2014 | 02:30
JOB creation is a slow, cumbersome business – which makes the rapid turnaround in our employment figures all the more surprising.
We now know that last year marked the first real improvement in our economy and the jobs market since the crisis began.
The good news is that the private sector created an incredible 66,000 jobs in 2013, pushing employment above 1.9 million for the first time since 2009.
The really good news is that employment rose thanks to improvements across the jobs market, rather than one area such as technology.
The biggest gains came in the areas of agriculture and services, helped by a booming tourism sector.
We have seen rising employment for some months, but there had been evidence that many of the jobs created at the beginning of the year were part-time, casting questions over the quality of the new jobs.
The latest figures paint a different picture; in fact, the vast bulk of positions created last year were full-time.
Early signs show firms continued to increase their rate of hiring in the new year while some parts of the public sector are also taking on people again. That should sustain jobs growth this year and act as a further stimulus to the economy.
Not everything is rosy, however. Jobs growth was concentrated in the over-35s, reflecting how difficult it is for many young people without experience to find work.
In fact, this age group endured net job losses of about 12,000, while the size of the workforce in this age cohort fell at twice this rate, suggesting that emigration is still a big issue for those aged under 35.
Things also remain tough for the long-term unemployed.
The fall in unemployment was split equally between those out of work for less than a year and those jobless for more than a year.
With short-term unemployment now at 95,000 and long-term joblessness at 155,500, this points to a somewhat weaker rate of re-employment of those out of work for more than 12 months.
As the economy recovers, a key task will be to find real ways to help the long-term unemployed to retrain and find new work in new sectors.
Those are tomorrow's challenges but today we can probably allow ourselves a small sigh of relief that things are heading in the right direction.