By Andrew Holt

Employment levels in the voluntary sector experienced a slight recovery during the final quarter of 2011 according to latest analysis of the Labour Force Survey.

An additional 36,000 employees entered the voluntary sector’s paid workforce between October and December 2011, the latest date for which we have accurate information.

This represents an increase of around 5% on the previous quarter and takes the sector’s workforce to a total of 759,000 individuals (2.6% of total UK employment).

These latest figures follow six consecutive quarters during which employment in the voluntary sector has either fallen or remained static.

Over the past 12 months, the sector’s workforce fell by 33,000, a decline equal to around 4%.

The latest figures also present an encouraging picture with regards training levels across the voluntary sector as around 41% of employees report having received training over the past three months, a greater proportion than in either the public or the private sector.

The latest findings were produced and analysed by the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in partnership with Skills -Third Sector, the registered charity working to make it easier for people who work and volunteer in charities and social enterprises to have the right skills to make a difference to people and their communities.

The findings come as part of an ongoing study being conducted by these three bodies into overall voluntary sector workforce trends.

Keith Mogford, chief executive of Skills - Third Sector said: “These findings give reason for some cautious optimism regarding levels of employment in the sector. At Skills - Third Sector we are particularly encouraged by the figures that suggest the sector is strengthening its commitment to training and workforce development, despite the financial pressures it faces. Investing in training undoubtedly brings benefits to organisations and individuals, and we urge organisations to continue to strengthen this activity.”

Sir Stuart Etherington, NCVO chief executive, added: "It is encouraging to see the workforce figures recovering slightly after the steep drop from the last quarter, and the research also highlights the valuable contribution that the sector makes to the UK economy.

"However, this is clearly no time for complacency, and as we move forward into this new financial year it will be essential that government and voluntary organisations work closely together to mitigate the impact of cuts and support development and innovation."

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