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Unemployment drops below 7%

Unemployment fell by 77,000 in the last three months, taking the unemployment rate to 6.9 per cent for the first time since 2009.

In the largest annual rise in nearly 25 years, the number of people of people in a job rose by 691,000 – more than double the population of Newcastle - bringing the record number of people in work to 30.39 million.

Wages also rose on the year by 1.7 per cent, against yesterday's announcement that March’s inflation had dropped to 1.6 per cent, and job vacancies rose again, up 108,000 over the past year bringing the number of vacancies in the UK economy to 611,000.

Minister for Employment Esther McVey said:

“More young people are in work, more women are in work, wages are going up, and more and more businesses are hiring - and it's a credit to them that Britain is working again.

"But there is still more to do - which is why I'd go even further and call on more employers to work with us to tap into the talent pool the UK offers.”

The number of people in work has increased by 1.5 million since 2010 - over a million of these jobs are full-time – and the employment rate is now 72.6 per cent, showing the Government’s long-term economic plan to back enterprise and businesses so they can create jobs is working. 

The proportion of women in work also hit a new record of 67.6 per cent - the highest since records began.

Long-term unemployment is down 93,000 on the year, which is the largest annual fall since 1998. The number of unemployed young people also fell, by 38,000 over the last three months, and has been falling now for the last seven months. 

The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance fell by 30,400 last month and is down 386,100 on the year. The number of young people claiming JSA has been falling for the last 22 months.

Today Employment Minister Esther McVey is visiting the North East, where employment is increasing and unemployment is falling.  She will be seeing first hand Government schemes in action, such as the event training scheme that produced Jesse J's make-up artist, and Jamie's Italian restaurant in Newcastle, which are helping young people increase their skills and find jobs.

Background to labour market statistics: April 2014

This month's Labour Force Survey covers December 2013 to February 2014. The claimant count is for March 2014 and the vacancy count for January 2014 to March 2014.

The number of people in work rose this quarter

30.39 million people were in work in December 2013 to February 2014.

The employment level rose 239,000 on the previous quarter and 691,000 on the year

The employment rate is 72.6%, up 0.5 points on the quarter and up 1.2 points on the year.

ILO unemployment fell this quarter

2.24 million people were ILO unemployed in December 2013 to February 2014, down 77,000 on the previous quarter and 320,000 on the year.

The ILO unemployment rate is 6.9%, down 0.3 points on the quarter and down 1.1 points on the year.

The level of economic inactivity is down on the quarter and on the year.

The economic inactivity level is 8.85 million in the December 2013 to February 2014 quarter, down 86,000 on the previous quarter and 104,000 on the year.

The economic inactivity rate is 21.9%, down 0.2 points on the quarter and down 0.3 points on the year.

Excluding students, inactivity as a share of the 16-64 population is 16.4%, down 0.1 points on the quarter and down 0.3 points on the year.

The number of people claiming one of the main out-of-work benefits is falling 

Claimant unemployment was 1.14 million in March 2014, down 30,400 on the month and down 386,100 on the year.

The claimant count rate is 3.4%, down 0.1 points on the month and down 1.2 points on the year.

In the year to August 2013, the number claiming incapacity benefits fell 76,200 to 2.44 million. The most recent provisional figure for February 2013 suggests the caseload has risen slightly since then.

In the year to August 2013, the number of lone parents on income support fell 47,700 to 498,000. The provisional figure for February 2013 is 480,000.

The number of redundancies rose and unfilled vacancies rose on the quarter

There were 117,000 redundancies in December 2013 to February 2014, up 5,000 on the previous quarter but down 20,000 on the year.

ONS' vacancy survey estimates an average of 611,000 unfilled vacancies in the three months to March 2014, up 38,000 on the previous quarter and 108,000 on the year.

Total weekly pay in December to February 2014 was up by 1.7% over the year

Growth in regular weekly pay, excluding bonuses, was up by 1.4% on the year

REC CEO Kevin Green said: “The latest jobs figures are fantastic news for the recruitment industry and show that the jobs market is improving and that wage growth is returning. The ONS figures are supported by Report on Jobs that shows that there is growth across all sectors and all regions. This provides recruiters with the perfect back drop to expand their businesses.”

Neil Carberry, CBI Director for Employment and Skills, said, “This is a positive set of figures which shows again that our flexible jobs market works. Firms are hiring at a faster pace, the number of people out of work is at a five-year low and the majority of new jobs are full-time. We’ve always said that as growth picks up more people will feel the benefits. Businesses are creating jobs across all sectors and real wages in the private sector are rising.”

Nigel Meager, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said, “Today’s statistics from ONS are, as expected, extremely positive. Coming as they do after more than 6 months of improving data, they confirm that the labour market recovery from the recession is now firmly entrenched.

“All the main labour market indicators have moved in the right direction compared with the previous quarter, in some cases by significant amounts. In particular, the overall employment rate, at 72.6 per cent (a much better measure than the total employment number, usually cited by ministers) is now back at the level last seen at the start of the economic crisis.

“Much of the recent growth has been in full-time employment, and, among part-timers, the numbers working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job is starting to inch down. The unemployment rate has fallen below 7 per cent for the first time since late 2009. Long-term unemployment is also down, suggesting that the recovery is starting to benefit those groups furthest from the labour market.The fall in the youth unemployment rate is also to be welcomed, although it needs to be stressed that the strongest growth in employment is yet again among older workers (aged 50-plus).

“The level of vacancies in the economy is strongly up, an indication of further pent-up demand from employers. The much lamented squeeze on real wages seems to be easing, with the gap between earnings growth and price inflation having almost closed, although it will take many months or years of earnings growth for the lost ground to be recovered.

“There are, however, some unusual features of the labour market recovery, which are yet to be fully explained. In particular, the ongoing surge in self-employment continues apace. It is up by another 146,000 in the quarter to a new record of over 4.5 million. Over the last two years the number of employees grew by 3 per cent, but the number of self-employed by a dramatic 9 per cent. Key questions surround whether this reflects a wave of new business creation, or whether, as some have suggested, it mainly consists of a motley collection freelancers aiming to keep a toehold in the labour market until they are able to return to regular employment. Most likely it is a mixture of both, but one notable feature of the recent self-employment growth has been the extent to which it consists of people working part-time (traditionally, the self-employed have tended to work much longer hours than employees). It is also worth noting that the self-employed are not included in the average earnings statistics published today, and some recent analysis of self-employed incomes suggests that they have fallen even more in the recession than those of employees.”

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary, said, “The recovery underway is welcome but we have a very long way to go to climb out of the hole caused by the recession. Given the increase in population GDP per head is still 5.8% below 2007 levels. 

"This is the root cause of average earnings being down 13.8% in real terms since then. The pay of the bottom 50% of the workforce is still being squeezed. Public sector workers pay is being frozen or increasing less than inflation. This explains why Tesco like for like sales are down.” 


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