Looking under the lid of employment figures


Employment has gone up and unemployment has gone down. This is good news. But it should not be taken at face value. A closer look at today’s data shows an increase in the number of people involuntarily working in part-time or temporary jobs. As the chart below shows, there has been a sustained rise in the number of people who are in temporary work because they could not find a permanent job. Around 650,000 people are in this position, up from around 400,000 in the mid-2000s.

Source: Resolution Foundation analysis of ONS

Notes: Data give three-month moving averages, and are seasonally adjusted

The number of people working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment also remains stubbornly high, at 1.4 million. Looking at the timing of these changes, it may be that the rise in involuntary temporary workers is an effect of the recession, albeit a sharp one. However the rise in involuntary part-timers began in 2005, long before the financial crisis hit. Even during the growth years, there wasn’t enough to go around.