By Maximilian Clarke

Slight gains in domestic business confidence have yet to translate to jobs growth as figures show UK unemployment over the first quarter 2012 remained steady at 8.4%.

“The overall picture revealed by these figures is one of little real change," comments Nigel Meager, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies. "Small positive improvements (slight employment growth, a small increase in redundancies, some reduction in longer-term unemployment) are offset by small deteriorations in other indicators — overall unemployment and youth unemployment up slightly along with redundancies."

The employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64 for the three months to January 2012 was 70.3 per cent, unchanged on the quarter. The number of people in employment aged 16 and over increased by 9,000 on the quarter but fell by 44,000 on the year to reach 29.12 million. The number of part-time employees increased by 60,000 on the quarter to reach 6.61 million and the number of full-time employees increased by 3,000 to reach 18.22 million.

The number of self-employed people fell by 52,000 on the quarter to reach 4.09 million and the number of people in other categories of employment fell by 2,000 to reach 199,000. The number of employees and self-employed people who were working part-time because they could not find a full-time job increased by 110,000 on the quarter to reach 1.38 million, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992.

Meager continues: “Until we see a sustained run of several months improvement in all the main indicators, it is difficult to find real cause for optimism. The labour market has been stuck in a double bind of public sector cuts and private sector stagnation for several years, with no real improvement in sight.

"Job vacancies dropped fast at the beginning of the recession to below 500 thousand, where they have stubbornly remained since late 2009. Similarly, and lagging slightly, unemployment grew rapidly in the recession, but has languished at or slightly above 2.5 million since autumn 2010. None of this is surprising since GDP, after some signs of improvement in early 2010, has flat-lined ever since at 4 per cent below its pre-recession peak.

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