UK Employment Still at Record Levels


May 2019

UK Employment Still at Record Levels

The number of people in work in the UK rose to 32.7 million in the three months to March, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The latest figures from the ONS revealed that an extra 99,000 people in the UK were in work in the quarter leading to March. There are currently over 3.6 million more people in employment than there was in 2010. The employment rate now stands at 76.1% of the working-age population, which is the joint highest rate since records began.

Unemployment is down from the 3.9% recorded in the three months to February, to 3.8% in the three months to March. This is the lowest unemployment rate recorded in the UK since the end of 1974. There are now 1.3 million unemployed people in the country, 65,000 less than the previous quarter.

“Maintaining our record employment rate with unemployment falling again to just 3.8%, its lowest rate since 1974, once again shows the success of our balanced approach to managing the economy,” said the Minister of State for Employment, Alok Sharma. “Rising wages and booming higher-skilled employment means better prospects for thousands of families, and with youth unemployment halving since 2010, we are creating opportunities for all generations.

“We now need to shift some of our focus to upskilling people and supporting them into roles with real career progression to create a modern workforce fit for the challenges of the 21st century.”

While annual wages grew by 3.2% in the quarter leading to March, this is slightly below the 3.5% growth rate recorded in the three months to February. However, wage growth is still above the inflation rate of 1.9%, meaning real wages are growing but the pace of growth is slowing down.

“Pay growth is stalling again,” said Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress. “The last thing workers need is another hit in the pocket when real wages are still lower than a decade ago. The government must raise the minimum wage to £10 as quickly as possible. And give unions the freedom to enter every workplace to negotiate fair pay rises.”

Another positive note to take from the latest ONS figures is the fact that female unemployment in the UK is at its lowest rate since records began in 1971. The unemployment rate for women in the country now stands at 3.7%, down from the 6.4% recorded five years ago. In that same period, male unemployment has seen an even sharper decline, down from 7% to the current 3.9%.

“The labour market remains in fine fettle, and continues to break new ground,” said Tej Parikh, senior economist at the Institute of Directors. “Businesses have steadfastly expanded their workforce whilst the fog of uncertainty clouds longer-term investment decisions.

“After a long period of relentless hiring, however, the momentum behind employment growth appears to be slowing as there are fewer workers available to fill skyrocketing vacancies. The jobs boom has no doubt kept the economy ticking along but for many businesses progress on skills, training and education policy could not come sooner.”