Britain in the growth slow lane as demand for staff stalls

Yesterday's Eurostat data on EU growth and this morning's Recruitment and Employment Confederation/KPMG Report on Jobs contain more depressing news on the economy.

David Cameron mocked Ed Miliband today for failing to raise the economy at Prime Minister’s Questions – yet the latest evidence suggests it is Mr Cameron, and his sidekick Mr Osborne, who should be sheepish.

Yesterday’s Eurostat data (pdf) on European Union growth and this morning’s Recruitment and Employment Confederation/KPMG Report on Jobs (pdf) contain more depressing news on the UK economy, while Mr Osborne himself last night downgraded UK growth forecasts, admitting the recovery was “slower and choppier” than after previous recessions.

As Graph 1 shows, only Portugal and Romania have grown slower than the UK over the last year amongst European Union members for which data is available. Second quarter growth this year was just 0.7 points higher than Q2 2010, well below the EU23 average of a 1.7 point rise.

Graph 1:

The Report on Jobs, meanwhile, shows the growth of vacancies continuing to ease, with depressing figures on the demand for staff by sector. As Table 1 shows, demand for both permanent and temporary/contract nursing, medical and care staff is down, though there is better news for those seeking IT and computing, and engineering and construction work.

These are consistent with the impression of stagnation from most other indicators – particularly affecting lower-paid jobs, as also shown up in the claimant count figures.

Table 1:

Bernard Brown, Partner and Head of Business Services at KPMG, said:

“Although the jobs market has held up relatively well, it remains in the summer doldrums and, worryingly, there seem to be early signs of trends similar to those of 2008. Whether this is a blip or a return to a familiar and unwelcome pattern will emerge over the next few months.

“Permanent and temporary staff appointments rose again in August but only at the same relatively low rates seen last month. And whilst it’s good that we are still seeing some growth in appointments, whether this can continue in the face of a decline in the rate of growth of vacancies remains to be seen.”

While Ed Balls, responding to the European growth comparison, called on the chancellor to “get out of his denial” and admit Britain “now faces a growth crisis”, adding:

“These latest figures for economies across the European Union are a real cause for concern. They show that while there has been a slowdown in many countries in recent months, over the last 12 months only Romania and Portugal have grown slower than the UK. The British recovery was choked off last autumn well before the global market turmoil we have seen in recent weeks…

“Without strong growth and more people in work it will be harder to get the deficit down. That’s why we urgently need leadership from the chancellor on the world stage to agree a global plan for growth and a more balanced deficit plan here in Britain.”

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