The latest employment firgures show sunnier skies but all may not be as it seems

The latest employment data will provide economists, politicians and strategists with plenty to chew on.

The headline figure for unemployment jumped by 43,000 to top 2.5 million for the first time since 1996, the number of people in employment fell by 89,000 and the number wanting a job rose again.

But there are certainly positive signs. The claimant count is down by 32,900 and the actual number of hours worked is on the rise.

And one figure that probably won’t get the mention it deserves is that the number of people too discouraged to find a job has dropped to 66,000 after peaking at 78,000 in December. The idea that as the recession bit the number giving up hope of finding a job more than doubled is not a comforting one.

For construction too, the picture is mixed. Having lost 213,000 jobs by the end of 2009 or about 10% of its workforce as we have recorded before, there are tentative signs that the rate of job loss may be easing, if only temporarily.

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