Employment Rates hit historic highs

This month we lost two hugely familiar faces from our screens: Bruce Forsyth and Robert Hardy. Both were abidingly popular throughout their long careers. The "Generation Game" and "All Creatures Great and Small" were Saturday night staples through the Seventies, a decade in which families would often watch the TV together on a Saturday evening, over 20 million regularly tuning in to the same shows.


This cosy picture on the face of it has much to recommend it - though few would give up the technological advances that have made these collective national experiences (barring World Cups and Royal Weddings!) a thing of the past. Everything from an increasing number of channels (and televisions per household) and the creation of internet, through even to the use of central heating around the house have reduced TV-watching as a collective experience.


One area on which there should be no nostalgia for earlier decades is unemployment. However we are so used to hearing extraordinarily good employment statistics that we risk taking them for granted. This month's figures showed local unemployment remaining in the lowest band in the country at under 1 per cent unemployment.


Nationally the unemployment rate at 4.4 per cent is down to its lowest level since 1975 and the percentage of the population in work (the overall employment rate) is higher than at any time since 1971. This rate has been massively improved by higher rates of female employment and more older people choosing to remain in or return to work (though there are few such extreme examples as Robert Hardy and Sir Bruce!)


Beneath these statistics there is much that needs to be improved. In particular for the working population as a whole, pay increased last year by 2.1 per cent while inflation increased by 2.8 per cent. However anyone who can recall the periods of high levels of unemployment of the past and everything that brought with it will be delighted that we are seeking to improve our economy from a position of high employment than from the dreadful waste of long dole queues.