David Cameron promises boost for employment
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to establish the "most pro-business, pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda ever unleashed by a government".
After a meeting with business leaders in Downing Street he said thousands of new posts would be created, as a result of a "strong, confident" economy.
Firms including Microsoft, McDonalds, John Lewis and the major supermarkets have pledged to boost employment.
But Labour said the government's cuts would stifle economic growth.
The prime minister's meeting with business leaders focused on what the government could do to encourage companies to take on more staff.
'Many, not the few'
Afterwards Mr Cameron said: "We can only get our economy back on track by creating a climate in which the private sector can grow and develop, creating jobs and opportunities for people across the country.
"This year the government is determined to help deliver many thousands of new jobs and I'm delighted that the companies joining me today are part of that.
"Across a whole range of areas you're going to see the most pro-business, pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda ever unleashed by a government. Its time we looked forward to a positive, strong, confident Britain.
"By developing the right skills and jobs I am determined that the many, not the few, will share in the country's prosperity."
The senior executives are promising to create thousands of jobs and apprenticeships in an attempt to generate some confidence in the economy.
Supermarket chain Morrisons says it will create 6,000 new jobs in 2011, with Tesco promising 9,000 and Sainsbury's 6,500. Asda has pledged to create 15,000 retail apprenticeships.
John Lewis and Microsoft have promised 4,000 new jobs each, McDonalds 3,000 and gas company Centrica 2,600.
But Labour leader Ed Miliband used his monthly press conference to accuse the prime minister of undermining many jobless young people's life chances by ending Labour's £1bn Future Jobs Fund initiative a year early.
Since 2008, the fund has paid for temporary jobs for 18 to 24-year-olds, who have been out of work for more than six months.
"This decision to betray young people is not just unfair; it is the wrong long-term economic judgment for our country," Mr Miliband said.
The government is said to be considering ways to ensure a more flexible labour market, including making it easier for small firms to hire and fire staff.
It is expected to launch a consultation later this week to consider a range of reforms.
Among them is a potential doubling - to two years - of the length of time someone must be employed before they can bring an unfair dismissal claim.
Another possibility would be to require anyone bringing a case to an employment tribunal to pay a fee, returnable if they win, in an effort to discourage spurious claims.
The British Chambers of Commerce said employment tribunals were in "dire need" of reform.
But the TUC said the introduction of a fee would deter genuine claimants.
"Instead of a focus on the employment tribunal process, ministers' time would be better spent looking at why so many companies, especially small employers, have such poor employment practices," it said.