How you look at current unemployment depends on what your expectation is. The unemployment level showed an unexpected rise in January, jumping by 23,500 - but on the other hand, the current unemployment level of 2.46 million is much lower than the three million or more that many experts had predicted.
There are various reasons why unemployment is currently lower than expected. One is that many employees have accepted a reduction in their working hours, realizing that this is preferable to losing their jobs altogether. Similarly, many people have accepted pay freezes, or even cuts, to keep their jobs - this is a realistic acceptance of the pressures that employers are facing, and a big change from the last recession, in the early-1990s.
The government has also taken action designed to keep unemployment down, including extra funding for Jobcentre Plus, and subsidising work for young people through the Future Jobs Fund.
However, many experts fear that the recession may have a sting in the tail, with another dip before we finally start to climb out of it. So if you are employed, but are concerned that your employer might be downsizing, cost-cutting, merging or selling, what can you do to protect your position or make yourself more employable should you lose your job?
- Show a positive attitude: Don't get caught up with people who are moaning and complaining or spreading rumours. If your bosses are considering who to keep and who to get rid of, employees who show a 'can do' attitude are more likely to be retained.
- Work hard: Similarly, when a company is unsettled, many employees find it hard to stay focused or keep motivated. This is not the time to be arriving late or taking long lunch hours. Instead, try and put in some extra effort - give your bosses a reason to keep you on.
- Be flexible: If companies are downsizing or laying people off, then those employees who remain will need to be flexible. Show yourself willing to take on whatever is required and you will make yourself one of the "indispensables". How do you do it? Volunteer when help is needed, take on more work or more responsibility, show you can cope with whatever comes your way.
- Update your skills: We live in a world where up to date skills are a vital part of most jobs. Take the opportunity to update yours before the axe falls. Finding a good course that you can take in your own time will not only make you more of an asset to your current employer, it will also put you ahead of the curve should you find yourself out of work.
- Update your CV: Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst. Even if you are not actively looking for a new job yet, it is still a good idea to keep your CV updated. If you have added new responsibilities, changed your job title, or updated your skills, be sure to add them to your CV.
When companies are struggling, some issues are out of your hands, but by planning ahead you will increase your chances of staying in regular employment.