The number of people in work reached a new record high yesterday - offering a spot of good news on the economy amidst all the gloom.
Unemployment and redundancies both fell, but the fear is that the figures could bottom out and turn up again in the months to come.
Employment increased by 175,000 in the three months to December to 29.4 million, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1971.
The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fell by 10,800 in January to 794,600, the lowest total since the summer of 1975. It was the 16th consecutive monthly reduction.
The claimant count rate remains at 2.5 per cent.
Unemployment, including people not eligible for benefit, the so-called ILO measurement, fell by 61,000 in the quarter to December to 1.61 million, the lowest for almost two years.
The rate dipped to 5.2 per cent from 5.3 per cent, the lowest since January 2006.
West Midlands seasonally adjusted claimant count unemployment totalled 94,100, down 2,400, 3.4 per cent. The unadjusted equivalent was 97,600, up 3,500, 3.5 per cent.
The ILO statistics on the quarter for the West Midlands were 151,000, minus 22,000, 5.7 per cent of the workforce.
The East Midlands equivalent was 119,000, down 12,000, 5.2 per cent.
Nationally, the number of people classed as economically inactive, including those looking after a sick relative, on early retirement or who have given up looking for a job, also fell in the latest quarter - by 54,000 to reach 7.92 million.
But the total is still 51,000 higher than a year ago and represents 21 per cent of the working population, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Around 111,000 workers were made redundant in the latest quarter, the lowest figure since comparable records began in 1995, and 24,000 down on the previous three months.
The number of manufacturing jobs continued to fall to a record low - down by 31,000 in the three months to December to 2.9 million, the lowest total since 1978. There were 677,000 vacancies in the three months to January, up by 7,300 from the previous quarter. Meanwhile, there were just six industrial disputes leading to stoppages in December, all in the public sector, the lowest since comparable records began in 1931.
The latest three-monthly increase in employment of 175,000 was the highest for a decade, boosting the employment rate to 74.7 per cent, up by 0.3 per cent from the previous quarter.
Employment Minister Stephen Timms said: "These figures show we continue to have a strong and stable labour market with both record numbers in employment and the lowest claimant count for 32 years.
"Our welfare reform policies are improving the opportunities for people who have traditionally been the hardest to reach, helping them to make the move off benefits and into work.
"With the right help and support, more people are able to take up jobs and provide for themselves and their families where before this didn't seem an option."
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "The employment figures are a glimpse of sun behind the current gloom over the economy.
"I hope that the improvement in employment bodes well for the future prospects of the increasing number of jobseekers currently unable to find work."
John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: "If it weren't for the fact that most economists are forecasting an economic slowdown this year, the jobs figures would be a cause for celebration.
"What is surprising is that the ONS figures show no sign whatsoever of the softening in demand for staff identified by various recent independent employer surveys.
"The apparent conundrum might be explained by the normal lag between turning points in economic activity and the eventual labour market fallout. But it might also indicate that the jobs outlook isn't so bleak after all.
"Let's hope for the best - but don't be too surprised if things soon start to take a turn for the worse."
He added: "Migrant workers are taking the lion's share of new job vacancies while older workers are instead better able than in the past to hold on to their jobs.
"What this also highlights is that home-grown workers, not just those from overseas, have benefited from the jobs boom of recent years. It remains to be seen which groups will fare best when the jobs market next enters tougher times."