Unemployment remains at four-decade low

Employment figures

Unemployment is at just 4.3%, the lowest level since 1975 – and official figures have shown a fall in the unemployment rate every month in 2017.

The figures, released by the Office for National Statistics, also show that employment remains at a near record high, with 32.08 million people in work. There are also a record number of vacancies (798,000) in the economy at any one time.

Separate figures also released today show there are 660,000 people now receiving Universal Credit as the rollout of the new benefit continues. Research shows that with Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than compared to the old system.

Minister for Employment, Damian Hinds said:

We’re ending the year on a strong note with figures showing the unemployment rate has fallen every month in 2017, and is now at the lowest it’s been in over 40 years.

Employment is at a near-record high, and there are over 3 million more people in work now compared to 2010 – that’s more than the population of Greater Manchester. Universal Credit is helping people get into work quicker, and ensuring they get more money in their pockets for every hour they work.

Universal Credit supports both the unemployed and the low paid, as people don’t have to end their benefit claim when they find a job. This is especially important at this time of year, when many people take on temporary seasonal work.

Today’s employment figures also show the number of people in employment has increased by over 3 million since 2010.

Youth unemployment has fallen by over 40% since 2010 and the proportion of young people who are unemployed and not in full time education remains below 5%

Geraint Johnes, Research Director at the Work Foundation and Professor of Economics at Lancaster University Management School, says today’s jobs report is packed with concerns:

The latest labour force statistics provide further evidence that the labour market has peaked and is now starting to turn down. Employment fell by some 56000 over the quarter to October. While there was a small increase in the number of full-time employees, there was a large fall (some 65000) in the number of full-time self-employed workers. Unemployment, meanwhile, continued to fall, and now stands at 4.3%. The simultaneous fall in employment and unemployment is possible because there has been a large increase (115000 over the quarter) in the number of economically inactive.

“There have been large falls in employment in the distribution sector (38000) and in information and communication (37000). Meanwhile numbers employed in professional, scientific and technical fields and in administration and support have increased.

“The three-month average measure of total weekly pay has increased to 2.5% (from 2.3% at the time of the last release). This is encouraging, but should be viewed alongside two further observations. First, wage growth remains well below the rate of growth of prices, so real wages continue to fall. Secondly, the single-month figure, while less reliable, is more modest – it has fallen to 2.3% from 2.8% last time around.

So the growth in the three-month measure is largely due to a spike in September that has not fed through into October. Low, and stagnant, wages remain a problem.”

Recruitment & Employment Confederation chief executive Kevin Green added:

“Employment has fallen for the second month running while vacancies are going up. With more people from the EU leaving the country and fewer arriving to work, it’s getting harder for employers to secure the number of people they need to fill roles. If they can’t find candidates, they won’t be able to meet demand, which means there is a risk that they won’t be able to grow and could even end up downsizing, relocating or closing down.

“Employers will need to continue to be resilient in 2018 as candidates are getting scarcer. Our data shows that some hirers are combatting skills shortages by increasing starting salaries to attract candidates, but this isn’t translating to a pay rise for the wider workforce – inflation is still outstripping pay growth by a long way.

“The government needs to take responsibility to ensure employers can plan ahead, be prosperous next year and keep creating jobs for people. What employers need is certainty about their access to EU workers – the transitional deal in the single market and what will happen afterwards – as well as certainty that the EU staff already performing vital jobs for them can stay. The business community will be looking closely at the next round of Brexit negotiations.”


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  1. How about the effects of the gig economy? How about the involuntary “self-employed”? The infinite sub-contracting pyramid continues to remove employees from company lists and feeds unscrupulous companies like Ryanair and Capita. The swing to the Right and away from workers’ rights/wellbeing is too much for too long. The centre has not held!

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