Are job opportunities really increasing?

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Contractor umbrella companies have noticed demand for workers increase in recent years, as the skills shortage and recovering economy have ramped up the hiring needs of businesses. However, new research has thrown doubt on the extent to which new opportunities are actually on the rise.

A report from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) showed the likelihood of being in work has declined in the north-east, north-west, the West Midlands and the south-west since mid-2010.

This is despite the number of people actually in work increasing by over three-quarters of a million across the UK during this time.

Looking at regional labour markets over the last 20-years, the research highlights that since the last election there are 780,000 more people in work across the UK. The likelihood of having a job has also risen by one percentage point nationally.

Yet, regionally there is great disparity and in four parts of the country the chance of being employed has declined.

In the West Midlands, a 0.8 percentage point decline was noted, while the north-west, north-east and south-west experienced 0.7 percentage point, 0.6 percentage point and 0.1 percentage point declines respectively.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: "Britain’s growing population has meant record levels of employment for much of the last two decades. But despite the return of growth the chance of having a job has actually fallen in much of England since 2010.

"The City of London may have caused the crash but the capital’s job market has been the most resilient over the last five years. Instead, areas like the West Midlands have borne the brunt of recession, with people’s chances of being in work are barely any better today than they were after the last recession in the early 90s."

There are some bright spots in the labour market though and employment rates have increased in Yorkshire and the Humber (up 2.4 percentage points) and the East Midlands (up 1.8 percentage points).

Taking a long-term look at the labour market, the TUC also found that the UK's working age population grew by nearly four million in the last 20-years - a fact that is bound to result is record employment levels each month, the body claims.

Over the last two decades, job opportunities appear to be the most abundant in the north-east and London. Since the 1990s, employment rates have grown by over five percentage points, despite the recession.

Yet even in the capital there is disparity between boroughs. Indeed, someone living in Wandsworth or Richmond is 20 per cent more likely to be in work than those in Newham, Barking or Dagenham.

In the West Midlands, where the poorest long-term jobs record can be seen, employment rates are barely better than those experienced two decades ago.

While contractors are still finding themselves in demand, with opportunities varying across the country its clear more needs to be done.

The TUC now wants the government to do more to ensure job chances are equal across England, opposed to just concentrated in London and the south-east.

"Whilst it’s great that jobs are created being in London and the south-east, stronger job creation is needed throughout the country," Mr O'Grady said. "We need more well-paid jobs, as well as better wage rises for those already in work, if the UK’s 30 million strong workforce is to get a fair share of the benefits of recovery."

By Victoria McDonnell

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