The jobs market: Britain's bumpy rollercoaster

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A woman looks into the window of a job centre for work
A woman looks into the window of a job centre for work Photo: Press Association

Today came the welcome news that unemployment is down - just a little.

Around 50,000 more people were in work according to the official figures for July to September. The unemployment figure is 2.51 million. Average earnings are also up 1.8%.

The jobs market has been far more robust than many of us would have expected, given the weakness of other economic indicators. That's partly because unemployment tends to lag behind other barometers of our national well being.

It's also because there has been a shift form unemployment to "under-employment", with record numbers working part-time due to the unavailability of full-time roles. This disguises some of the misery inflicted by the state of our economy.

Today I'm in the North East of England, the region with highest levels of unemployment. Even when the national picture was improving, here the jobless total grew by 6,000 in the first three months of the year.

The struggle faced by many in this part of the country is laid bare by a stark figure released today - it also has the highest levels of household debt. In the North East a typical family now owes 34 pence for every pound of income (Source: Which? Financial survey, 14th Nov 2012). It shows how the problem of unemployment soon generates follow-on hazards, like dominoes falling.

Figures show unemployment has fallen to its lowest total for over a year
Figures show unemployment has fallen to its lowest total for over a year Credit: Press Association

So what lies ahead? The Confederation of British Industry is predicting a rise in unemployment for 2013. Many bosses tend to hold onto staff as long as they can. So despite early signs of an improving economy, many families may still face the worst blow that a struggling economy delivers to a household.