By Maximilian Clarke

Rising unemployment has been fuelled by redundancies among the UK’s lowest paid workers, further polarising society between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, research shows.

The analysis from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) shows that the lowest paid workers have borne the brunt of job losses over the last three years. Sales and elementary service and admin jobs are responsible for 41 per cent of the claimant count rise since 2008, even though they represent less than 20 per cent of the workforce. The two job categories have the lowest pay rates of all occupations at just £6.55 an hour.

The number of dole claimants who have previously worked in sales jobs has almost trebled since the start of the recession in April 2008 to reach 324,625 in August 2011 (the most recent available figures). The number of sales vacancies has also fallen by six per cent over the same period.

Elementary service and admin occupations - such as labourers, bar and catering staff and cleaners - have had the second sharpest rise in claimant count unemployment, almost doubling from 86,250 in April 2008 to reach 168,015 in August 2011.

“There are over three million people across the UK in sales, admin and service jobs so this sharp rise in unemployment is a major concern. With consumer confidence continuing to fall and the numbers out of work reaching levels last seen in the mid-90s, hopes of a jobs recovery any time soon are looking ever more remote,” said TUC chief, Brenden Barber.

“People are desperate to see where new jobs are going to come from. But the government's rigid austerity plan is killing off their job prospects and stifling business growth. The Bank of England has started its plan B, it's time for the Chancellor to catch up and change course.”

More than one in ten women work in sales jobs - where they outnumber men by two to one - so further losses in this sector will particular hit women's job prospects in the private sector, at the same time as public sector job losses are disproportionately hitting women, the TUC says.
With unemployment rising and economic growth flat-lining, the pain looks set to continue unless the government reviews its austerity measures and starts prioritising jobs and growth, says the TUC.

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