Jobs created by retailers and other private sector firms helped bring down UK unemployment in the three months to April, but the jobless total across the country still remains high, new figures show.
The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) latest labour market statistics show that the total number of unemployed people fell by 88,000 over the quarter to reach 2.43 million, which represents the largest quarterly drop for almost 11 years.
Business groups have today reacted positively to the results, but concerns still exist over the number of long-term unemployed people, the high percentage of young Britons without a job and substantial unemployment levels in specific regions.
The difference in figures between the public and private sectors was also stark, with the number of people employed in the former falling 24,000 over the quarter and the number of people working in private enterprise increasing by 104,000.
Major grocers such as Tesco, Asda and Waitrose are among the private sector firms that have added significantly to their workforces since the turn of the year.
A number of retailers, including supermarket group Sainsbury’s, outdoor leisure retailer Go Outdoors and e-tail giant Amazon, have announced plans to create hundreds of new jobs in the UK later this year too, but more businesses in the industry will need to follow suit if unemployment is going to continue to decline.
Neil Carberry, Director for Employment of the Confederation of British Industry, said: “It is good news that unemployment figures have fallen, with the private sector creating jobs.
“We hope this will continue in the coming months, but we still have a serious problem with long-term unemployment and inactivity.”
ONS data shows that the number of people who have been without a job for 12 months fell by 16,000 to reach 829,000, but those who have been out of work for over two years increased by 39,000 to reach 385,000.
“We need to tackle the structural causes of unemployment to get the UK working,” Carberry added.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber welcomed the “significant fall” in youth unemployment - there was a quarterly decline of 79,000 unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds in the three months to April to total 895,000 - but he warned that serious problems still remain in the labour market.
“The recent jobs growth is not being shared evenly around the country,” he explained.
“Employment rates are still falling throughout northern England and there are still around 30 dole claimants chasing every vacancy in parts of Scotland and London.”