Employment market in desperate state as six hopefuls fight for each job


The number of jobseekers chasing each opening has more than doubled in the past year, underlining the desperate state of the employment market.

There are almost six unemployed people for each available post, the highest since comparable records began at the beginning of the decade, analysis of Office for National Statistics data shows.

That compares with just over two jobseekers for every position in the beginning of the decade, and 2.7 this time last year.

Dire straits: There were only 431,000 job vacancies between May and July, compared to the 2.5million jobseekers

Dire straits: There were only 431,000 job vacancies between May and July, compared to the 2.5million unemployed

Stewart Robertson, an economist at Aviva Investors, said he does not expect a rapid bounceback in hiring - even if the economic recovery gains traction.

Many bosses are likely to ask existing employees to work longer hours rather than taking on staff, amid fears that economic growth could dip back into the red.

'There is a big pool of unemployed people and relatively weak labour demand,' Robertson said.

'It is clear that employers can afford to be fussy and bargain down wages. Even if the economy starts growing again, the first adjustment will be an increase in the number of hours worked.'

ONS figures show that there were almost 2.5m unemployed in Britain between May and July and only 431,000 vacancies.

That suggests there were 5.7 chasing each post - the most since official data began in mid-2001.

The ONS measured vacancy rates before then, but not on a comparable basis.

Estimates using earlier figures suggest the ratio of jobseekers to vacancies is at its highest since 1996.

The ratio hit 15 jobseekers for every vacancy in the recession of the early 1990s and 19 in the early 1980s, but discrepancies in the way the figures were measured make comparisons unreliable.

Worries about Britain's fragile recovery and fractured public finances continued to bear down on sterling yesterday. The pound fell 0.2 per cent to $1.59 against the dollar, the lowest since May. Against the single currency, sterling fell 0.5 per cent to e1.08.

But Bank of England chief economist Spencer Dale claimed that there are signs the economy could be on the mend.

'Things look like they've stabilised and we have turned a corner, but it looks like we are in for a long haul,' he said.

The ONS will today give its most detailed breakdown of Britain's economic performance in the second quarter. Output probably fell around 5.5 per cent in the second quarter.

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