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Record employment rate for year end

The UK employment rate has reached a new record high of 73.9%, driven by an increase in full-time workers, according to the latest official figures from the Office for National Statistics.

There are more than half a million more people in work compared to this time last year, bringing the total number in employment to 31.3m.  Wages are also continuing to grow strongly, up 2.4% over the same period.

Under the Government’s stewardship of the UK economy, British businesses have grown and created jobs, generating employment for an additional 554,000 people in the private sector over the last year.

Employment Minister Priti Patel, said, “We are ending the year on a high, with a record rate of employment, and wages continuing to grow.

“Today’s figures show half-a-million more people in work compared to this time last year, which means hundreds of thousands of families are going into the festive season with the security and hope for the future that work brings.

“Next year we will build on this positive story with the introduction of the National Living Wage and the new offer of 30 hours free childcare for working families. In this way we are delivering the high-wage, low-welfare society with opportunity and security at its heart that we know the British people want.”

Today’s figures also show that the number of people on one of the main out of work benefits is now at its lowest level since the early 1980s, and inactivity is at its lowest rate in a quarter of a century. 

Recruitment and employment organisations share their views below.

Doug Monro, co-founder of Adzuna, commented, “More people are in full-time work in the run up to Christmas, as the festive period delivers a new round of jobs approaching the end of the year. Advertised customer service roles are on the rise, providing crucial work opportunities for many and courier vacancies are the most popular. This is encouraging news, but may only prove to be a short-term improvement. The jobs market may appear well on its way to reaching its former strength, aided by rising wages for those in work. For jobseekers though, despite a dip in the unemployment rate, the reality is not quite as rosy as it initially seems.

“Falling unemployment has failed to translate into a real improvement for job hunters. Adzuna data reveals that there is a current ratio of two vacancies for every jobseeker, but a chronic skills shortage is making it more difficult than ever to fill positions. This has resulted in an uneasy dependency on both internal and overseas migration in order to prop up the jobs market into the next year. The New Year will present a real challenge for both employers and jobseekers – as both struggle to find the right person, or the right job. For the jobs market to be firmly back on its feet, proactive ways to tackle the skills deficit need to be found.”

Mark Beatson, Chief Economist at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said, "Today’s statistics suggest that job growth in the UK has well and truly recovered, following what seemed to be a pause earlier in the year. Employment has increased by half a million and it’s encouraging to see the unemployment rate continuing to fall. It now stands at 5.2%, which is below the level that many commentators had regarded as sustainable. But wage growth remains subdued, and this makes it less likely that we will see interest rates increase during 2016.

"With very low inflation, the average pay packet is still increasing in real terms, but this will only be sustainable if productivity increases. This will require organisations to invest in technology, new systems and their workforce.

"Also, the latest figures for public sector employment show that it fell by just 12,000 in the three months to September. With the Spending Review likely to require far fewer job cuts than anticipated, public sector employers might find the coming months less challenging than feared, even if the 1% pay ceiling does affect their ability to recruit and retain key staff."

Neil Carberry, CBI Director for Employment and Skills, said, “The unemployment rate has fallen to pre-recession levels for the first time as the labour market continues to perform strongly, with youth unemployment also declining.

“The UK’s strong performance on job creation reflects the fact that our flexible labour market enables firms to create jobs easily and scale up production. With some significant labour market interventions like the apprenticeship levy and National Living Wage on the horizon, it is important this flexibility is not diluted further.”

Mariano Mamertino, economic research analyst at Indeed, said, “Even though the labour market continues to show signs of tightening, wage growth is falling back after gains in 2015. This signals that the role played by labour market tightening - in terms of pushing wages up - may be starting to fade. Near zero inflation and steady inflows of EU migrants may have contributed to the lacklustre wage rises for workers.

“Productivity and inflation are the determinants of real wage growth that we should watch for in 2016. Assuming that inflation follows the OBR’s projection and rises to 1.4% by the end of next year, a surge in productivity will be needed to boost the pay packet of the average worker.”

Ann Swain, chief executive at APSCo, commented, “With an employment rate of 73.9% and the ONS recording 747,000 vacancies from September to November – the highest number of vacant positions since comparable records began in 2001 - it’s clear that the employment market is benefiting from an economy showing steady signs of growth, increased market confidence and inward migration.”

“It’s not surprising that average pay continues to rise, particularly within the professional sectors, as organisations compete to attract the top talent and fill shortages. According to the latest monthly APSCo Professional Recruitment Trends report, remuneration has seen notably increased in key economic sectors, where addressing skills shortages is crucial in facilitating continued growth, in particular the banking and financial services market, where uplifts of 18.5% and 10.8% respectively have been experienced.”






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