British unemployment up … again

President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have a lot of things on their agenda today, including the world economy. But I doubt the President will be so rude as to ask the PM about the latest unemployment figures in Britain.

UK unemployment rose by 28,000 in the last three months of 2011 (official stats come out quarterly here). The current unemployment rate in 8.4 percent. The rise was not as great as in the previous quarter.  That was good news for Cameron's Employment Minister Chris Grayling who told the BBC, "This is a more encouraging set of figures, with signs that the labour market is stabilising."

But David Birne, an insolvency expert at HW Fisher accountants, told the Guardian, "Those seeking silver linings will seize on the fact that the rate of increase is slowing markedly. But any suggestion that unemployment is peaking sounds optimistic at best and complacent at worst."

And, of course, whether in Britain or the U.S., headline figures just don't tell the whole unemployment story any more. Most of the new jobs created were part-time. Part-time jobs were up by 59,000 and full-time employment was down by 50,000. A bit over 1 in 5 workers in Britain are now part-timers, many of them working short hours because there is no full-time work to be had.

Clearly, part-time is becoming the new normal in the Anglo-American model of capitalism.