“These better than expected unemployment figures are good news, and strongly reflect the sacrifices made by businesses and workers in restraining pay. However, they continue to hide worrying trends. The number of people in employment has fallen dramatically, with a significant decline among those in full-time work. The number of people working part-time, because they could not find a full-time job, has risen.
“More worryingly, the number of inactive people - those leaving the workforce - has risen to a record high. If some of these people decide to look for work, unemployment could rise sharply.
“Despite the decline in unemployment, we reiterate our forecast that the jobless total is likely to increase to around 2.65 million over the next six to nine months. The government should use the forthcoming budget to introduce measures that support bussiness’ ability to increase employment - with particular emphasis on full-time jobs. Scrapping the hike in employer NICs, planned for next year, and substituting it with a 1% rise in VAT, should be a top priority.”