It’s been a remarkable year in Britain’s jobs market. A flat economy has added more than 500,000 net new jobs – an annual employment growth rate of around 2% that one would normally expect only in a period of strong growth in GDP. There has been much discussion of this puzzling outcome which, even more remarkably, has occurred alongside large scale public sector job cuts. Most comment has focused on self-employment and part-time employment which together account for the bulk of the increase. Yet relatively little attention has been given to the types of jobs that have been created, or for that matter lost, during the surprising jobs boom. I’ve therefore looked at what at present available Office for National Statistics (ONS) data reveal about employment change by occupation in the past year.
Managerial and professional jobs dominate the top 10 positions in the league table of UK job growth between April-June 2011 and April-June 2012, with big gains for Production Managers and Directors in Manufacturing (up 33,000, 13%), Human Resource (HR) managers and Directors (up 22,000, 19.2%), Management Consultants and Business Analysts (up 18,000, 12.3%), Quality Assurance and Regulatory Professionals (up 18,000, 29.5%), and Information Technology (IT) Specialist Managers (up 18,000, 10.3%). However, Sales and Retail Assistants saw the biggest jobs gains (up 77,000, +7.2%), while the number of Chefs in employment also increased substantially (up 27,000, 14.4%).
The majority of the 10 occupations registering the biggest jobs losses are outside the managerial and professional groups, with the impact of the recession and cuts in public expenditure apparent in falling employment of Electricians and Electrical Fitters (down 26,000, 9.3%), Plumbers and Heating and Ventilating Engineers (down 24,000, 12.6%), Nursing Auxiliaries (down 32,000, 10.6%), Teaching Assistants (down 25,000, 7.1%), Youth and Community Workers (down 25,000, 30%) and Local Government Administrative Occupations (down 18,000, 10.5%). Other occupations shedding substantial numbers of jobs include Electrical Engineers (down 17,000 36.9%), Medical Practitioners (down 15,000, 6.2%), Special Needs Education Teaching Professionals (down 14,000, 19.7%), Further Education Teaching Professionals (down 13,000, 9.4%) and Police Officers below sergeant level (down 12,000, 6.9%).
From the available data I also estimate that 1 in 14 UK workers (2.1 million or 7.1% of all people in employment) are back office workers. Of these 0.7 million work in finance, 0.4 million in HR, 0.4 million in IT and 0.6 million in back office administration. The number of back office jobs increased by more than 100,000 (4.8%) between 2011 and 2012, in percentage terms more than double the net increase in total employment.
This analysis overall shows that the recent ‘jobs boom’ is a mix of good news for some groups of workers but bad news for others. While the net job gain is most welcome, at a time of economic austerity and mounting social distress it’s obviously worrying that we are shedding so many front-line public sector jobs in areas like health, teaching, policing and youth and community support work.
Moreover, in a period of falling labour productivity it’s also very puzzling to see so many back office jobs being created. HR managers and IT professionals may be important to our increasingly knowledge based and personalized service based economy but it’s nonetheless surprising to see a surge in back office jobs at this stage in the economic cycle.