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ONS figures show unemployment drop YoY

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released its employment figures from January to March 2016.


Between October to December 2015 and January to March 2016, the number of people in work increased, the number of unemployed people was little changed, but the number of people not working and not seeking or available to work (economically inactive) fell.


There were 31.58m people in work, 44,000 more than for October to December 2015 and 409,000 more than for a year earlier.


There were 23.12m people working full-time, 328,000 more than for a year earlier. There were 8.46 million people working part-time, 81,000 more than for a year earlier.


The employment rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were in work) was 74.2%, the highest since comparable records began in 1971.


There were 1.69m unemployed people (people not in work but seeking and available to work), little changed compared with October to December 2015 but 139,000 fewer than for a year earlier.


The unemployment rate was 5.1%, unchanged compared with October to December 2015 but lower than for a year earlier (5.6%). The unemployment rate is the proportion of the labour force (those in work plus those unemployed) that were unemployed.


There were 8.90m people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive (not working and not seeking or available to work), 20,000 fewer than for October to December 2015 and 116,000 fewer than for a year earlier.


The inactivity rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive) was 21.7%, the joint lowest since comparable records began in 1971.


Average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain increased by 2.0% including bonuses and by 2.1% excluding bonuses compared with a year earlier.


Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Stephen Crabb, said, “These are another record-breaking set of figures, with more people in work than ever before and the unemployment rate is the lowest in a decade at 5.1%. More people in work means that more families across the UK are benefiting from the security of a regular wage and the fulfilment that employment brings. But the job is not done, which is why our welfare reforms, such as Universal Credit, are making sure that it always pays to be in work.”


John Salt, group sales director of totaljobs, said, “In a month of uncertainty on the future direction of the UK, these figures provide a welcome boost to the Government. It’s pleasing to see that businesses are more confident than ever about hiring new staff. However, in what promises to be a tumultuous few months for the UK economy, it’s important that the Government do all they can to steady the ship and encourage businesses to keep on hiring.”


Doug Monro, co-founder of Adzuna, commented, “The jobs market isn’t in full bloom yet – but budding employment increases are positive sign, among a testing time for employers and jobseekers alike.


“The effects of the National Living Wage are still being felt throughout the UK jobs market.  Many companies have had to adapt to offering higher wages, which may come at the expense of staff benefits. While this may cause some short-term discomfort, it should ultimately lead to happier employees in the long term. Those in work have also seen a boost in wages, which could be a sign of rising recognition of employee value. It’s been a time of adjustment. Now it’s on to the next challenge.


“June’s upcoming EU referendum could be bringing an element of the unknown into the jobs market. Coupled with the impact of a higher wage bill, some employers may be feeling reluctant to invest in new staff. Instead, they’re waiting out until June to see the result. Jobseekers are feeling the impact – advertised salaries in March rose by just £15 month-on-month to reach £33,815 and fell 2% annually. But this plateau isn’t likely to last too long. With summer just around the corner, an influx of seasonal work and graduate jobs could improve prospects and help us move towards a flourishing employment market.”


Labour figures also show there has been an upsurge in self-employment and temporary workers.  20,000 more people are choosing to work self-employed, plus 28,000 more working on a temporary basis. The figures are based on a comparison between Q4 2015 and Q1 2016.


Julia Kermode, chief executive of FCSA, said, “Today’s figures clearly demonstrate just how important the flexible workforce is to UK plc.  With the uncertainty around the EU referendum companies seem to be turning to temporary workers for help and true to form, the flexible workforce is keeping the economy running.


“The dynamics of work are clearly changing so it is more important than ever that the Government acknowledges these trends and works harder at supporting this flexible contingent group of workers rather than penalising them with unhelpful and prohibitive legislation.  This sizeable and strategically important group of workers contribute hugely to the UK economy and should be recognised and valued.”


Mark Beatson, chief economist at the CIPD, stated, "Today’s figures are another good news story for the Government; the UK economy is continuing to generate jobs and help people into work. Although this jobs growth isn’t on the same scale as that seen in 2015, this probably reflects an easing off in economic growth prospects, rather than any more specific economic concerns arising from the EU Referendum next month.


“However, it’s a stern reminder that businesses can only hire in new talent for so long and employers need to be thinking about their long-term skill requirements and the tools needed to up-skill existing staff to prepare for this. The Government needs to be driving this focus on training and development to boost productivity more permanently, particularly among small businesses.


"Average earnings growth is set to be stable at around 2%, which is consistent with data from our Labour Market Outlook survey and from other sources tracking pay settlements.  Again, it suggests that any labour shortages that do exist are not widespread enough to push up overall wage increases. Once the labour market begins to tighten, we would expect to see greater pressure on starting salaries which may act to push other wages in the workforce up. However, given the extra costs that employers are facing through the new National Living Wage and pension auto-enrolment, any increases are likely to be minimal.”


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