employmentOffice for National Statistics (ONS) figures have revealed that Britain’s workforce grew by 24,000 to 29.76 million from February to April compared with the previous quarter, predominantly down to a rise in the number of pensioners seeking work or delaying retirement.

The number of workers in Britain aged over 65 has risen above 1 million for the first time as firms increasingly prefer older employees to younger staff.

Latest jobless figures from the Office for National Statistics highlighted the “greying” of the workplace amid signs that growth in early 2013 is starting to have an effect on jobs.

Data released on Wednesday shows that unemployment fell by 5,000 to 2.51 million in the three months ending in April.

The figures show that the number of over-65s in work is now at the highest level since records began in 1992, with almost one in ten people in this age group currently employed.

Commenting on these statistics, Institute for Employment Studies (IES) Director of Research, Jim Hillage, said:

“Data from the Office of National Statistics show that the labour market continues to stagnate, with a small increase in the number of people in employment and a small fall in unemployment.”

“However, beneath the doldrums, the long-term currents underpinning the labour market are moving and this month sees a further rise in the number of older people in employment that takes the total to over one million for the first time.”

He continued:

“Unemployment continues to be stuck at around 2.5 million, 8% of the labour force. Despite recent signs that the economy is starting to improve, unemployment show no signs of falling significantly in the near future. There is still a lot of slack in the labour market and it is clear that it will be a long time until the jobless total returns to pre-recession levels.”

“Meanwhile, the total number of people in employment continues to reach record levels although the employment rate has actually fallen to 71.5%, again well below pre-recession levels, as the overall population increases. Yet some underlying structural changes in the labour market continue.”

Mr Hillage added:

“Significantly, the number of employed people aged 65 or over has reached 1,003,000. While this reflects a welcome willingness among employers to recruit and retain experienced people, it may also reflect the need that some older people have to top up inadequate pension arrangements.”