Unemployment and government hopes and gambles

The latest unemployment figures are being published today.

They will give not just the latest snapshot of the human cost of the starts and stutters of the recovery, but will reveal exactly how the government's big hope, or gamble for the sceptics, is working out.

Namely, how quickly public sector jobs are disappearing, and how quickly private sector jobs are being created.

Unemployment figures are expected to show another increase Credit: Reuters

The last time we got a look at these figures was at the end of last year, when the Office for National Statistics revealed that public sector employment decreased by 67,000 in the third quarter to 5.987 million.

During the same period employment in the private sector increased by a measly 5,000 to just 23 million.

And it's only once a quarter that the breakdown of the switch from one sector to another is revealed.

The figures comparing year-to-year however are much healthier:

  • At the third quarter of 2011 there were 262,000 more jobs in the private sector
  • There were 276,000 less in the public sector
  • But it is in the last quarter of the year that the economy actually slightly shrank

Overall, expectations are that unemployment will continue to edge up, hitting particularly women and the young. But last month's rise was the smallest in some months, although it continued to climb.

The jobless total currently strands at 2.6 million Credit: Reuters

Sadly, even if economies start to improve, and although things have not appeared to get worse in the last few months, unemployment often continues to lag behind.

So even if the private sector is, as the boss of the huge recruitment company Manpower, suggested this week beginning to 'turn a corner', it may be quite some time before that is reflected in healthy numbers of new jobs being created.

For George Osborne and the rest of the coalition, the pace of job creation is critical Credit: Reuters

With many more public sector jobs still set to go, the private sector cannot pick up the slack fast enough.