Martin Flanagan: Jobless rise need not signal tougher times

Unemployment is down in Scotland but the number of people with a job has fallen. Picture: TSPL

Unemployment is down in Scotland but the number of people with a job has fallen. Picture: TSPL

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It is interesting that UK unemployment rose in the quarter to August as it is the first increase since the turn of the year.

But, that apart, there was very little in yesterday’s data to suggest it is any sort of post-Brexit portent of worse economic news in the pipeline.

The rise – just 10,000 to 1.66 million – is small. And through an increasing population, employment was up by 106,000 in the latest quarter to almost 32 million. That good news was seized on by politicians as a sign that after the Brexit vote in June the economy remains in decent shape.

Not only that, but unemployment in Scotland actually fell in the period by 25,000. It brings the jobless total north of the Border to its lowest level since just before the 2008 financial crash and 44,000 fewer than in the same three months of 2015.

READ MORE: Scots unemployment falls to 8-year low

If this is a UK labour market cooling, it is a pretty imperceptible temperature. The headline unemployment rate is still at a near 11-year low of 4.9 per cent.

Coming on the back of comments from various recruitment consultancies recently that hiring is cooling, particularly in professional services, yesterday’s minor UK jobless spike may trigger some excitability that a more severe weakening of the labour market is in prospect.

But it is just too early to tell, and yesterday’s data too tentative and qualified to be of much help. Just as one swallow doesn’t make a summer, what has become the rarity of rising unemployment doesn’t necessarily foreshadow tougher economic times.

Sweet success for Hotel Chocolat

Six years of varying degrees of austerity have apparently not blunted our desire for little luxuries. The resilience of the coffee shop industry is renowned. The big spirits companies say we drink less but more luxuriously.

And, yesterday, upmarket chocolate chain Hotel Chocolat revealed a stonking rise in profits from £2.9m to £82m as it hailed the new “hedonism”. A sweet response to economic headwinds.

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