Barely a day passes without yet more news of layoffs, plant closures or redundancies. Indeed, in the last year alone, over 800,000 people joined the dole queues taking the total to 2.65 million at the beginning of May. While the rate of job losses has slowed dramatically recently, few believe unemployment will start its downward course again much before 1993 at the earliest.
Yet there are some fragile rays of hope. Management Today has analysed the accounts of all 1,780 quoted companies (excluding investment trusts) drawn from the latest Arthur Andersen Corporate Register and discovered that a remarkable 40% of them had actually increased their staff from their last but one accounts to the latest. Of course, many of the least available accounts only cover 1990 or the earlier part of last year.But there is little room for complacency if unemployment is to be reduced through genuine wealth creation. In the largest seven, manufacturing is heavily outnumbered by the food and household products companies.
British major supermarket groups have in recent years been opening new stores with a vengeance. With healthy operating margins and annual profits increases of 20-30%, they have been able to take on staff with ease. Tesco and Sainsbury, for example, added over 10,000 staff to their payrolls between them in 1990-91. Even the troubled Asda group managed a healthy 11,000.
Manufacturing's only representative is GEC, Britain's largest electrical and electronics group. Its 1991 accounts show a healthy 11,000 increase though much of this will have come from the Plessey takeover. The numbers are likely to show a sharp downturn when the 1992 accounts are published. In the last year, MD Lord Weinstock has been pursuing ever greater efficiency. Staff increases at top firms
Company Staff Increase
Unilever 30,000 5,000
GEC 118,529 11,094
Tesco 87,691 4,457
Boots 83,729 5,097
British Gas 81,805 1,324
Asda 74,109 11,028
J Sainsbury 70,848 5,539
Source: Arthur Andersen Corporate Register March 1992.