Employment surges by 280,000 in last three months alone

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Labour Market Statistics released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS):

  • Comparing September to November 2013 with the previous three months, the number of people in employment increased by 280,000 (to reach 30.15 million), the number of unemployed people fell by 167,000 (to reach 2.32 million) and the number of people not in the labour force (economically inactive) aged from 16 to 64 fell by 22,000 (to reach 8.93 million).
  • Comparing September-November 2013 with a year earlier, there were 450,000 more people in employment, 172,000 fewer unemployed people and 75,000 fewer people aged from 16 to 64 not in the labour force.
  • For September-November 2013, 72.1% of the population were in work, up from 71.5% a year earlier and 70.3% two years earlier, but lower than before the 2008-09 downturn. The highest employment rates since records began in 1971 were recorded in 1974 and the winter of 2004/05 (73.1%) and the lowest rates were recorded in 1983 (65.6%).
  • For September-November 2013, 7.1% of the labour force were unemployed, down from 7.7% a year earlier and 8.4% two years earlier, but higher than before the 2008/09 downturn. The lowest unemployment rates since records began in 1971 were recorded in the winter of 1973/74 (3.4%) and the highest rates were recorded a decade later in mid-1984 (11.9%).
  • The average weekly wage, including bonus payments, rose by 0.9% comparing September to November 2013 with the same period a year earlier. Average weekly wages including bonus payments before taxes and other deductions from gross pay were £475 in November 2013, up from £472 a year earlier.
  • Average weekly earnings excluding bonus payments also rose by 0.9% comparing September to November 2013 with the same period a year earlier. In cash terms, average weekly earnings excluding bonus payments were £447 in November 2013, before taxes and other deductions from gross pay; this is up from £444 a year earlier.

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Commenting on the Job Figures:

David Morel, managing director of London-based Tiger Recruitment, commented: “It’s official. The UK jobs market is now well on the way to recovery. You’d expect a recruiter to sing up the jobs market, but 2014 has been the busiest start to a year since before the global financial crisis. Both permanent and temporary markets are very busy with employers across all sectors hiring at all levels. A rise in the number of active employers has been matched by a significant increase in applicants looking for new jobs. People sense that there are more opportunities out there and they are making more of an effort as a result.

“Sentiment, as well as hard economic reality, is improving the jobs market. Salaries are starting to increase as employers compete to land their chosen candidate. The early signs are that salary levels will increase further throughout the year.

“2014 looks set to be the year when the jobs market finally emerges from the ashes of 2008.”

Mark Beatson, Chief Economist at CIPD, said: “We have recently seen unemployment start to fall quickly and forecasts being revised downwards but, even so, today’s figures are a surprise with the headline unemployment rate falling from 7.4% to 7.1% in a single month.  We should remember these figures are statistics with margins of error attached to them and this does not mean we should expect to see falls of this size every month.  Nevertheless, today’s figures are consistent with the state of the labour market last autumn.  Our own Labour Market Outlook and other labour market surveys have shown consistently increasing confidence and hiring intentions.  In addition, the claimant count has been falling quickly ever since the summer and this might now also be feeding through into the headline measure.

“Looking beneath the headline figures, half of the last quarter’s employment growth was due to a sharp increase in self-employment.  The number of people who were working part-time because they could not find a full-time job has now started to fall.  And probably the best news of all is that we have seen noticeable falls in the number of young people unemployed and the number of people unemployed for over a year.

“Of course, employment growth of this scale suggests that we may find that the fourth quarter of 2013 saw little or no growth in labour productivity.  The weakness of productivity growth and the healthy state of the labour market explain why earnings growth remains below 1%, and these figures give little indication there will be any substantial movement in wage growth in the short term. Tackling our long-standing productivity problem requires policy makers, employers and trade unions to engage more closely with each other to find ways of stimulating investment, addressing long-term skill needs and making better use of the skills and talent already available in the workforce.”

John Salt, Website Director for totaljobs.com“Today’s figures are further proof of economic improvement. Employers should recognise this as a signal to invest in people and take advantage of the recent growth. Jobseekers should now be more confident of finding employment in 2014 as growth forecasts are revised upwards for this year. The government will look to capitalise on this positive data as they continue preparing the next Budget, which should include further incentives for businesses to take on staff.”

Nadim Choudhury, Head of Career Services & Employability, London School of Business and Finance (LSBF): “This is great news for young people. Looking at the figures more closely, there has been a large decline in unemployment for 18- 24 year olds – this category would include graduates who have recently finished university too. This is good news for higher education institutions as it is proof that  employers are taking on graduates again. It is also a good sign for graduate 2014 summer recruitment and autumn recruitment schedules.“

Peter Homes, ELAS consultant and HR expert has the final word: “The latest labour market figures released by the ONS are very encouraging, but cannot merely be attributed to the fact that the UK economy as a whole is picking up pace.

“Other factors are certainly contributing to this increase, one of which is how successfully apprenticeships have taken off among 16 to 25-year-olds. The incentives for joining such schemes are very attractive, with young people being employed for longer periods and gaining better qualifications than ever before, all of which is cutting down youth unemployment levels.

“Another thing to consider is the publicity surrounding zero-hours contracts, which has led to more companies exploring their options, asking the right questions and ultimately implementing these contracts as part of standard practice. This type of contract gives flexibility to both employees and employers and the latter are using them more often and with more confidence now that they know both their benefits and exactly how they work.

“In addition, employees used to only be able to claim unfair dismissal following a qualifying period of one year, which increased to two years in April 2012. This has resulted in employers taking on more workers, while having the time to pinpoint and dismiss any underperformers and underachievers without fear of backlash in the form of litigation costs or a lengthy tribunal.

“Finally, the introduction of fees incurred by workers bringing employment tribunals last July has led to a drop in the number of claims being brought forward, which has no doubt been the push that employers on the cusp of expansion have needed to take the plunge and take on more members of staff.

“Overall, it’s fair to say that government changes to employment law have given companies the incentive they needed to hire more people without the fear of potential consequences.”

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