Total hours worked are rising

Yesterday’s Office of National Statistics bulletin made headlines for the record unemployment count, though the BBC also nodded towards and increased employment count as well:

Despite the continued rise in unemployment, the proportion of the workforce in paid work also rose.

The number of people in jobs went up by 60,000 in the last three months of the year to 29,130,000.

This meant the employment rate rose by 0.1 percentage points in the three months to December to 70.3%, although this rate was still 0.2 percentage points lower than a year ago.

The apparent contradiction is explained by the fact that the number of people classified as economically inactive has dropped.

Their number fell by 78,000 to 9.29 million. This included a drop in the number of people categorised as long-term sick or retired, who went back into the workforce.

Perhaps all this talk about benefit caps is having an impact?

One other oddity got less attention. Total hours worked in the economy is rising. It’s actually up by 10 million hours since 2009 and 1m up over the last period.

I don’t often look at these statistics, but does that mean that while the economic mess is still sorting itsef out, the overall employment trend is actually good? City AM fill in a piece of this puzzle:

the number of full time workers fell 10,000 while a jump in part-time employment accounted for the rise.

This isn’a story of total demand for labour dropping, part time work (presumably private sector) is more than taking up the slack for full time positions lost in the public sector, and the long term sick are filling the positions. The only problem is that the positions aren’t neat packages of regular 8 hour work days. Overall, do we call that progress?

Simon Gibbs

Simon is a London based IT contractor and the proprietor of Libertarian Home. Working with logic and cause-and-effect each day he was naturally attracted to nerdy libertarianism and later to harshly logical Objectivism. Find him on Google+