Unemployment nears 2m - and graduates feel the squeeze

As the national jobless figure soars, the current crop of graduates faces an uncertain future...

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

More bad news on the labour market: official figures out today show that UK unemployment jumped by 131,000 to 1.92m between September and November – and that’s before some of the large-scale redundancies announced recently. Some 225,000 people lost their jobs during the quarter, leaving about 6.1% of the working-age population out of work. That’s already the highest rate this decade – and there are more lay-offs being announced all the time…

The latest victims are the staff at components firm TT Electronics, which is cutting about 1000 jobs in the UK as part of a plan to shed 10% of its global workforce. CEO Geraint Anderson (not the same bloke who calls himself ‘City Boy’, we assume) said the group had ‘identified opportunities which we believe can significantly improve business performance and drive shareholder value’. That must be a big consolation for those 1000 staff. Burberry and abattoir-operator Vion also announced swingeing redundancies yesterday.

Women are having a particularly hard time in the current labour market, according to the TUC. The union reckons that the redundancy rate among women is 2.3%, almost twice the rate for men – possibly because job losses are happening in sectors like retail and hospitality where women are more prevalent. And given that households are now much more reliant on women’s wages these days (indeed, in a fifth of couples the woman earns more than the man), this could potentially have a much greater impact than in previous recessions.

But it’s not just the current workforce that’s feeling the squeeze. Spare a thought for the UK’s graduates, who face an uphill task getting their mixed-metaphorical foot on the career ladder. According to a new study by High Fliers, employers are scaling back their recruitment plans drastically – about one in six graduate jobs for 2008 and 2009 has failed to materialise. The cuts have been particularly savage in the City, where the number of graduate banking jobs has plunged by nearly 50%. (Only the ever-reliable public sector bucks the trend, recording a 51% rise since 2007 – although we’re not sure whether that’s a good thing…)

With many of the class of 2008 still looking for a job – any job – a mere 13% of current finalists are confident about getting the graduate position they want (High Fliers suggests that if they haven’t got one already, it might be too late). But they shouldn't panic just yet - competition may be stiff, but there are still jobs out there. 'The way to approach the current shrinking graduate job market is to choose wisely,' says Soraya Janmohamed, from graduate recruitment specialists FreshMinds. 'There are a number of companies seeking to take advantage of the exceptional excess talent in the market today, who have aggressive hiring and growth plans for 2009.' And High Fliers also points out that average salaries have actually gone up this year. So it's not all bad news.

However, the overall UK employment picture is sure to remain pretty grim for a good few months yet...

In today's bulletin:

Nationalisation calls mount as banks hammered again
Unemployment nears 2m - and graduates feel the squeeze
Ofcom backs Channel 4/ BBC Worldwide merger
Sick told to get packing (their suitcases)
Fiat to rescue Chrysler - or is it the other way round?

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