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Unemployment falls to 2.2m

Neil Carberry, CBI Director for Employment and Skills, said, “As the recovery advances our flexible jobs market continues to deliver. The number of people out of work is at a new five-year low with the fastest quarterly growth in employment since records began.

“More people are now starting to see the benefits of growth with youth unemployment falling and total pay now matching inflation.

“There is more to do but the signs are encouraging and we expect real wages to rise in the year ahead as productivity picks up.”

Dan Langford, Group Marketing Director at Acorn, Wales' largest recruitment and training agency, said: “The latest employment figures are once again strong evidence of the strengthening economy.

“While the trend of the last year has seen the Wales employment rate improving faster than the UK average, the last three months has seen the rest of the country play catch up, with the Welsh unemployment figure stabilizing at 6.8 per cent, the same as the previous quarter.

“The other encouraging aspect of the current employment picture is the ongoing increase in the number of jobs that are available. While there will continue to be regional variations across Wales, the underlying trend is one of increased confidence in the future hiring prospects of employers.

“Hopefully, this is further indication that due to increasing productivity and output, the private sector continues to bring more and more people in to the workplace.

“It is clear the road to decent growth will continue to have its ups and downs, but the labour market is continuing to move in the right direction.”

Gerwyn Davies, the CIPD’s Labour Market Adviser, said, “The bumperquarterly increase of 283,000 in work shows that the UK jobs market continues to go from strength to strength.   However, the recovery is still yet to be felt in people’s pay packets.  Consistent with CIPD predictions, the average basic pay increase has fallen slightly to 1.3%, which remains well below the pre-recession average of 2.5%”.

Davies continues, “However, this relatively benign situation for employers in terms of wage growth may change if the labour market recovery continues to accelerate. Skills shortages, currently concentrated in particular sectors and occupations in the domestic labour market, could soon begin to spread to other parts of the labour market putting upward pressure on pay. Employers need to be developing existing workers, as well as hiring new ones, if they’re to mitigate this risk and ensure they have the skills to grow.”

“Amid predictions that more employers look set to increase business investment this year, now is the time for employers to prioritise training as part of this investment.  As well as ensuring that future business requirements are sustainably resourced, this also holds the key to boosting UK productivity levels – a pre-requisite for sustainable increases in the pay prospects of employees sustainably, many of whom are still yet to feel the benefits of the recovery.  A failure to act will cause come sectors of the labour market to overheat, while also placing a brake on UK productivity and international competitiveness.”

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, commented: “The labour market seems to have found its feet, with unemployment falling to a new five-year low of just 6.8%. But despite widespread private sector job growth, complexities still lurk beneath the headlines. Salaries remain a black spot on an otherwise optimistic picture.  Excluding bonuses, average earnings are still tracking well below inflation, eroding household budgets and contributing to an ongoing cost of living crisis affecting many in the UK.

“In addition, large pockets of the labour market are still under-utilised. The number of employees on zero-hours contracts has more than doubled in the past year, and many areas of the country are still struggling.  Last month it was 100 times more difficult to find a job in Salford or the Wirral, the worst two places in the UK to find a job, than in Cambridge or Guildford, where there were more than five jobs available per jobseeker. The North East remains particularly challenging for jobseekers and the market isn’t getting significantly easier for new graduates.”

John Salt, director of totaljobs.com, said, “Unemployment has now been trending downwards since late 2011. This has led to a steady supply of good news stories for the government, with job creation becoming the cornerstone the Conservative Party’s election campaign for 2015. However, the underlying problems in the job market endure. Yes we are seeing more people in work, but youth unemployment is remains high when compared to other developed economies as nearly a quarter of a million under 25 year olds have been out of work for more than a year. The government needs to invest more to help the young find full time work and create meaningful job market growth.”

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