Commenting on the labour market figures published today by the ONS, David Kern, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, (BCC), said:  

“These figures are slightly better-than-expected, but they still highlight worrying trends in the UK labour market. Unemployment is up, the level of inactivity has increased further, and the number of people working part-time because they could not find a full-time job has reached a record high. Additionally, public sector earnings, excluding bonuses, continue to rise at a much faster rate than the private sector – an unacceptable and unaffordable trend.    

“Since the tough deficit-cutting programme that is likely to be announced in the Budget will probably result in job losses in the public sector, the overall level of unemployment is set to increase further. On the basis of these figures, we reiterate our forecast that unemployment is likely to reach 2.65 million before the middle of 2011.  

“The government must take effective measures to enable the private sector to create jobs. It must scrap the entire planned increase in employers’ National Insurance and announce a moratorium on new employment legislation until at least 2014. In tackling the Budget deficit, we urge the government to impose an immediate freeze on the total public sector wage bill, and be forceful in reforming unaffordable public sector pensions.”