Record-breaking 30million Britons now in work: Cheer for Cameron as number hits highest level for more than 40 YEARSUnemployment falls to 7.7% in 10th consecutive quarterly declineRise in private sector jobs makes up for continuing cuts in public sectorMcDonald's announces it will hire 2,500 more UK staff in 2013
But Lloyds TSB reveals plans to cut 940 jobs as airline Flybe follows suit

Becky Barrow


10:17 GMT, 23 January 2013



02:00 GMT, 24 January 2013

The number of people in work is at a record high of almost 30million.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed the total workforce across public and private sectors last year was 29.7million, the largest number since records began in 1971.

At the same time, unemployment dropped by 185,000, the biggest annual fall for more than a decade, to 2.49million. This is around the same level as when David Cameron entered Downing Street in May 2010.

Employment figures

Employment figures

Statistics: Despite the overall fall in unemployment, the change was not uniform throughout the UK

The ONS also said the number of job
vacancies has jumped to nearly 500,000, the largest since 2008, the year
the recession began.

While the number of workers has never
been higher, the overall percentage in employment has fallen slightly
due to a growing population. Of people aged 16 to 64, the ONS said 71.4
per cent are working, compared with 73 per cent at the beginning of

Neil Carberry of the CBI said: ‘Pay restraint has played an important role in preserving jobs.’

More than one in four private sector
workers have suffered at least one annual pay cut or a freeze, rising to
48 per cent in the public sector, according to a report by the National
Institute of Economic and Social Research.

This has helped to protect jobs
because bosses have been able to keep control of their wage bill,
avoiding staff cuts. But the squeeze on income is fuelling the crisis on
the high street as consumers have less money to spend. The average pay
rise last year was just 1.4 per cent, while the consumer prices index, a
measure of inflation, is 2.7 per cent.

The strength of the jobs market is at odds with the weak economic recovery.

ONS figures due tomorrow may show that
economic output fell in the final three months of last year, raising
fears of a triple-dip recession.

Rise: The number of people in employment has reached an all-time high as the overall rate has improved

Rise: The number of people in employment has reached an all-time high as the overall rate has improved

A number of high-street retailers including Jessops and HMV have recently collapsed into administration.

Nida Ali, economic adviser to the
accountancy firm Ernst & Young’s Item Club, said: ‘These are pretty
impressive figures for the labour market in the face of a weak economic

‘But the story remains similar to
previous months, with the data betraying hints that the labour market
might be starting to run out of steam.’

Lloyds TSB distracted from the good news today as it emerged that the
bank is set to cut more than 940 jobs, bringing total job losses there
to 1,300 in just a few days.

Exeter-based airline Flybe is axing 300 jobs – 10 per cent of its workforce – in an attempt to cut its costs by 35million.

was at its worst in the North East, with 9.1 per cent of people looking
for work. In the South West, by contrast, the jobless rate stood at
just 5.5 per cent.

number of people classed as economically inactive, including those
looking after a relative or who have given up looking for a job, fell to
just over 9million.

Part-time employment fell by 23,000,
but this was offset by a 113,000 increase in the numbers employed
full-time in the three months to November.

Back to work: The unemployment rate has now fallen for 10 consecutive quarters

Back to work: The unemployment rate has now fallen for 10 consecutive quarters

Data from the Office for
National Statistics also showed a 26,000 increase in the number of women
out of work for up to six months, to reach 571,000, which may reflect
changes to the benefits system which have resulted in more single
mothers looking for work.

number of job vacancies in the economy increased by 10,000 to almost
half a million at the end of last year, the highest number for four
years, a hint that further falls in unemployment could be on their way.



McDonald's is set to create at least 2,500 new jobs over the course of this year, taking its workforce in the UK to 93,500.

The fast food giant's announcement comes after the firm created 3,500 jobs in 2012, growing by more than 20,000 over five years.

McDonald's said its growth was the fruit of investing in new technology as well as extending opening hours and menu choice in its 1,200 UK restaurants.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: 'A highly-skilled workforce is an important part of any growing business. That's why I am pleased to see how McDonald's is providing training and apprenticeships in a range of skills.

'McDonald's is also to be applauded for helping adult employees get qualifications in maths and English.'

Jill McDonald, chief executive of McDonald's UK, said: 'These remain challenging economic conditions but I'm pleased that, together with our franchisees, our continued focus on serving quality, affordable food and giving our customers a great experience is enabling us to keep investing in our business and creating jobs.

'Whilst today's job market is hugely competitive, we offer many people their first experience of work and we're focused on doing what we can to help more young people get into quality jobs and careers.'

Other figures revealed that the number of self-employed workers has increased by 7,000 to 4.2million.

another encouraging sign of life for the economy, long-term
unemployment has fallen – down by 10,000 for those out of work for more
than two years, to 434,000, and by 5,000 for people unemployed for at
least a year, to 892,000.

But the number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work increased by 1,000 to 957,000, the first rise since last summer.

Average earnings increased by 1.5 per cent in the year to November, lagging behind inflation at 2.7 per cent.

The average pay packet in Britain was 472 a week at the end of last year – the equivalent of around 24,500 a year.

Britons worked an average of 31.8 hours a week during the period covered by the statistics, up slightly from the previous year.

Employment minister Mark Hoban welcomed the figures, claiming that the British employment rate was increasing fast than any other G7 country.

'These are very positive figures showing employment rising for 15 months and despite difficult economic circumstances, unemployment is lower than when this Government took office,' he said.

'It's good to see long-term unemployment falling and the number of young people claiming jobseeker's allowance dropping again, while the increase in vacancies shows there are jobs out there.

'But we are not complacent, and will continue making sure we give jobseekers the support and training they need to achieve their goal of returning to work.'

But Unison general secretary Dave Prentis cautioned against overconfidence, saying: 'Any fall must be welcome but progress is still painfully slow for the 2.49million people still desperately looking for a job.

'The number of High Street names going into liquidation shows there is no room for complacency. And only yesterday the Government announced more than 5,000 cuts to Army personnel.

'We know that many thousands of public sector workers' jobs are under threat as council budget cuts mean that elderly care centres, nurseries, swimming pools and other valued services face the axe.'

Liam Byrne, shadow work and
pensions secretary, said: 'Today's headline fall in unemployment is
welcome news, but today's figures show no roaring recovery, they show
very shaky foundations.

of the country saw yet another rise in unemployment, nearly half a
million people have been on the dole for more than a year, and youth
unemployment rose.'

Boost: David Cameron will take comfort from the positive new employment statistics

Boost: David Cameron will take comfort from the positive new employment statistics

The Federation of Small Businesses warned that hiring could slow if new companies were not encouraged to expand.

'With small firms more likely to hire the long-term unemployed, they need additional incentives to create new jobs,' chairman John Walker said.

'We continue to call for an extension to the current regional National Insurance Contributions holiday to all micro firms across the UK. This could create around 47,000 new jobs and add 1.3billion to GDP.'

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, argued that the strong unemployment figures cast doubt over the gloomy statistics on Britain's GDP.

'The new figures reinforce favourable trends that have been apparent over the past year, and raise continued questions over the accuracy of the much more pessimistic GDP figures,' he said.

Losses: Lloyds TSB has announced it is to shed 940 jobs in the UK, damping down the good news

Losses: Lloyds TSB has announced it is to shed 940 jobs in the UK, damping down the good news

Lloyds confirmed its plans to cut hundreds of jobs, adding: 'Lloyds Banking Group is today announcing 940 role reductions within the group operations, insurance, retail, wealth and international and commercial divisions.

'Lloyds Banking Group is committed to working through these changes with employees in a careful and sensitive way. All affected employees have been briefed by their line manager today. The group's recognised unions, Accord, Unite and LTU, were consulted prior to this announcement and will continue to be consulted.

'The group's policy is always to use natural turnover and to redeploy people wherever possible to retain their expertise and knowledge within the group.'

Ged Nichols, general secretary of Accord, said: 'This is a bleak start to the year for hard-working employees and is bad news for the UK economy on a day when the small fall in the numbers unemployed was supposed to be good news.

'The fact that nearly 200 of the jobs are to be outsourced to India is particularly unwelcome. Accord is certain that this is not what UK taxpayers would want from a bank in which they are the largest shareholder.'