Breakdown of figures shows more women out of work

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THE FALL in the national unemployment total last month masks widely varying patterns in different parts of the country and among different groups of people, figures from the Department of Employment showed yesterday, writes Robert Chote.

Unemployment fell in most parts of the country, but rose slightly in northern England for the first time in six months. Scotland suffered worst. Unemployment north of the border rose by 1,600 to 179,500, taking the proportion of the country's labour force without a job and claiming benefit up to 9.3 per cent. The sharpest falls in unemployment were in southern England, the West Midlands, Northern Ireland and Yorkshire and Humberside.

Separating the figures for men and women reveals an even more divergent pattern, with male unemployment falling in every region bar Scotland, while female unemployment rose in every region except East Anglia and the South-west. Throughout the country male unemployment fell by 16,800 while female unemployment rose by 5,000. Barely 5 per cent of the female workforce is now on the dole, compared to more than 12 per cent of men.

This runs contrary to the pattern so far during this recovery, in which women have tended to do better from the upturn in the labour market. The Labour Force Survey showed that of the 39,000 people taken on by employers during the spring, 25,000 were women but only 14,000 were men. However, in the same period self-employment among men rose by 47,000, while self-employment among women fell by 6,000.

About 10,000 men gave up searching for work during the spring because they thought no jobs were available, while a net 9,000 women began looking again. Many women take jobs after doing unpaid work at home, which means the creation of new jobs for women tends to have less impact on the number of people claiming benefit than the creation of a similar number of jobs for men.

The survey shows that job creation is being dominated by part- time work, as full-time jobs - for example in manufacturing - continue to be shed. Some 86,000 new part-time jobs were created in the spring, while the number of full- time positions fell by 8,000.

Trends in unemployment also vary among people of different ages. The proportion of the workforce without a job and seeking work during the spring, but not necessarily claiming benefits, rose from 17.4 to 18.2 per cent for 16 and 17 year-olds, but fell in all other age groups.