UK employment rate at record high

The UK employment rate came in at a record high between October to December 2019.

This is according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which reported that the employment rate was at 76.5 per cent, up 0.6 percentage points compared to 2018 and 0.4 percentage points up on the previous quarter.

The unemployment rate came in at 3.8 per cent, 0.2 percentage points lower than 2018 and 0.1 percentage points lower than the previous quarter.

In real terms (after adjusting for inflation), annual growth in total pay was estimated at 1.4 per cent and annual growth in regular pay estimated at 1.8 per cent.

There were an estimated 810,000 vacancies in the UK for November 2019 to January 2020; this is 7,000 more than the previous quarter but 50,000 fewer than a year earlier.

Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library attributes some of this increase in the employment rate to more women being in jobs.

Mr Biggins said:

Despite the uncertainty surrounding our departure from the EU in the final quarter of 2019, the UK job market remained resolute as the employment rate hit yet another record high.

What’s more, the fact that female employment also spiked is particularly promising. Indeed, with big businesses such as RBS injecting significant funding to support female entrepreneurs, it’s likely that we will see this rate continue to grow.

Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser for the CIPD believes that despite IR35, the number of self-employed workers has provided a big boost for the job market.

Mr Davies said:

These latest figures could hardly be better in terms of the strength of employment growth, with full-time employment accounting for all of the employment growth.

The majority of the growth is due to the sharp increase in the number of self-employed, with more workers, especially women, taking advantage of the buoyant jobs market by setting up their own businesses.

Official figures also show an increase in the number of people working flexibly, including a sharp increase in the number of people using flexi-time. It seems that the tightening labour market is enabling more workers to structure work around their lifestyles and responsibilities, which is undoubtedly helping support such sharp increases in employment growth.

The figures also show that the share of people on zero-hours contracts has increased modestly. However, this still amounts to just three per cent of all workers. Some will be quick to point to this as a symptom of increasingly precarious employment, but research has shown that the majority of zero-hours contract workers are satisfied with their arrangements.

Sophie Wingfield, head of policy and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), said:

Today’s (18/02/20) figures show a jobs market that is growing in confidence, putting record numbers of people in work. That’s great news for recruiters and the economy. Following a year of political and economic uncertainty, businesses are putting into action the ambitious hiring plans they had previously been cautious to press go on. The challenge now is to keep this momentum going.

The Government should take care in what is a crucial ten months ahead. Delaying the ill-conceived IR35 tax changes to 2021 to ensure they can be properly and fairly implemented is extremely urgent. The flexible labour market is already being stifled, and that’s not good for employers or our economy.

Today’s increase in vacancy numbers means that as businesses start to look for more staff, an evidence-based immigration system will be crucial to supplying the skills that are needed across the economy. A sensible immigration plan that allows employers to recruit from abroad for sectors such as construction, health and technology where skills shortages are high is essential.