Boom in part-time working keeps unemployment at 31-year low

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The Independent Online

A massive shift is under way from full-time to part-time work, even though Britain is enjoying its most stable labour market since modern records began.

A massive shift is under way from full-time to part-time work, even though Britain is enjoying its most stable labour market since modern records began.

A total of 72,000 full-time staff left their jobs over the summer, the largest quarterly drop since the spring of 1993, government statisticians said yesterday.

But this was more than offset by a rise of 91,000 in part-time positions, leaving unemployment 5,000 lower in August compared with the previous month.

The fall in demand by companies for full-time workers was also highlighted by a rise of 30,000 in the number of people going self-employed during the three months to August.

However, at an overall level unemployment has shown the least variation than at any time since modern records began 31 years ago. The Office for National Statistics confirmed a marked shift into part-time and self-employed work had been going on over the past few months. The figures help explain why the number claiming unemployment benefit has stayed close to a 27-year low over the past 12 months despite a sharp slowdown in economic growth.

It might also explain why high-profile job losses in the City, manufacturing and the media have not fed through to the claimant count as redundant workers opt for lower pay rather than the dole.

A sector breakdown on employment, which goes up to June, showed the only sectors currently hiringare hotels, restaurants and distribution and the public sector.

Yesterday's figures showed the growth in average earnings fell despite a fall in unemployment and an rise in the number in work. Pay and bonuses rose at an annual rate of 3.8 per cent in August, down from July and less than the 4.1 per cent economists expected.

Meanwhile the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors confirmed reports from the major lenders that September was another boom month for house prices. It said prices rose as buyer enquiries rose and properties remained in short supply.

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