Number of Self-Employed Hits 20-Year High

Soaring unemployment is forcing many workers who lose their job to become self-employed.

The number of self-employed people has jumped to its highest level since records began nearly 20 years ago, official figures revealed yesterday.

Between August and October, 166,000 more people became self-employed, raising the total to 4.1million, the Office for National Statistics said.

Experts raised doubts over whether all of these were happy about the decision, or simply had no other option.

Michael Saunders, of investment bank Citigroup, said: ‘It may well be some, having lost their jobs, categorise themselves as self-employed but really are unemployed or at least under-employed.’

It comes at a time when there are said to be 461,000 vacancies in the UK.

John Philpott, of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: ‘I do not think there has been a sudden surge of entrepreneurial zeal. This is people who cannot get a job picking up bits and pieces of work.

‘It is a sign of economic weakness, rather than strength.’

Vicky Redwood, chief UK economist at the consultancy Capital Economics, said the jump is likely to reflect people ‘resorting to working for themselves.

Yesterday the Employment Minister, Chris Grayling, insisted the latest figures show ‘some signs that the labour market is stabilising’ but said the increase in unemployment was ‘unwelcome.’