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Unemployment up but retail could be saviour


National employment levels have taken another hit, with new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing 70.5 per cent of 16 to 64-year-olds are in work.

This figure, for the three months to the end of December 2010, represents a 0.3 per cent drop on the previous quarter and signifies that an extra 68,000 people are now out of work.

Obviously as employment levels drop unemployment levels rise and the ONS announced an unemployment rate of 7.9 per cent, which is up 0.1 per cent on the previous three-month period. A massive 2.49 million people were unemployed during this time.

It appears that young people are yet again struggling to find work, with the number of jobless 16 to 24-year-olds increasing by 66,000 to 965,000 - the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992.

While the figures are depressing the retail sector could hold the key to lowering unemployment and reducing the youth jobless total, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The BRC is urging the government to implement a Budget which does not impose new employment costs and bureaucracy on the private sector in a bid to grow retail employment.

BRC Director of Business and Regulation, Tom Ironside, said: “Retail is the biggest private sector employer. Despite a tough economic climate, it has managed to increase the amount of work available. Given the right conditions, that growth can continue.

“A strong private sector will become more and more important as thousands of former public sector employees lose their jobs because of cut backs. The retail sector deserves support as it continues to invest in property and people.

“A third of retail staff is under 25. The sector is providing work for some of the young people facing the biggest challenges in the current climate. Retailers offer opportunities ranging from accountancy to management. They are committed to investing in the skills of their workforce.”

Macroeconomic Research Consultancy Capital Economics is less optimistic than the BRC though, and believes that the unemployment figure will continue to grow towards three million in the next few years.

Published on Wednesday 16 February by Editorial Assistant

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