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Unemployment rate remains at 4.3%, ONS reveals

Estimates from the Labour Force Survey show that, between March to May 2017 and June to August 2017, the number of people in work increased, the number of unemployed people fell, and the number of people aged from 16 to 64 not working and not seeking or available to work (economically inactive) also fell.

There were 32.10m people in work, 94,000 more than for March to May 2017 and 317,000 more than for a year earlier.

The employment rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were in work) was 75.1%, up from 74.5% for a year earlier.

There were 1.44m unemployed people (people not in work but seeking and available to work), 52,000 fewer than for March to May 2017 and 215,000 fewer than for a year earlier.

The unemployment rate (the proportion of those in work plus those unemployed, that were unemployed) was 4.3%, down from 5.0% for a year earlier and the joint lowest since 1975.

There were 8.81m people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive (not working and not seeking or available to work), 17,000 fewer than for March to May 2017 and 13,000 fewer than for a year earlier.

The inactivity rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive) was 21.4%, down slightly from a year earlier.

Latest estimates show that average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain in nominal terms (that is, not adjusted for price inflation) increased by 2.2% including bonuses, and by 2.1% excluding bonuses, compared with a year earlier.

Latest estimates show that average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain in real terms (that is, adjusted for price inflation) fell by 0.3% including bonuses, and fell by 0.4% excluding bonuses, compared with a year earlier.

Recruitment & Employment Confederation chief executive, Kevin Green, stated, “The creation of more jobs despite business uncertainty is a testament to the determination and positive attitude of British employers to build and grow in the face of economic challenges.  From a jobseeker’s point of view though, the continued squeeze on wages means there is little room for full-throttle celebration.

“Recruiters tell us that due to the diminishing pool of available candidates, employers are willing to offer higher salaries or hourly pay rates when advertising for new hires, meaning the best way to secure an above inflation pay rise might well be to move jobs.

“Businesses can only grow if they have access to the people and skills they need. As the supply of available workers decreases, exacerbated by a declining rate of net migration, it is essential that the government does all it can to support employers. That means urgent clarity on the details of any post-Brexit transition period, confirmation that EU nationals currently working in the UK can stay and rapid development of a sustainable, agile, evidence-based immigration system that will support the economy.”  

David Clift, HR director at totaljobs, said, “Today’s news represents a real triumph for the job market, which remains robust despite continued political uncertainty. It’s impressive that unemployment has now fallen month-on-month for sixteen consecutive months; a clear signal of employer confidence.

“One would have been forgiven for thinking that the stagnation of Brexit talks would have precipitated a rise in unemployment, though the job market has remained remarkably consistent since the triggering of article 50 and subsequent negotiations.

“To be placed in its historical context: not since 1975, where the average house price was under £12,000, has unemployment been so low.

“Data from totaljobs has found that a number of industries are continuing to perform strongly, with the transport and logistics sector seeing a 6% month on month increase in job postings.

Lewis Fawsitt, director of corporate sales at specialist recruitment agency Acorn, said, “Wales is enjoying record levels of employment and this is testament both to the strength of businesses in the region and the quality of the workforce.

“There are a number of factors that are affecting employment currently. Welfare reform is certainly playing its part, as is the weak pound, with its positive effect on exports.  But in the main it is down to the innovative businesses in the region that continue to develop and grow their products and services along with their respective workforce to meet the demands of their customers.

“We have seen an increase in activity in the construction, manufacturing, IT, aerospace and the services sectors, alongside companies looking to increase their intake of young talent, through graduates and apprentices alike. In addition, Wales continues to benefit from strong inward investment creating direct jobs and jobs within the wider supply chain.

“Acorn continues to see a rising demand for permanent and temporary staff, and whilst there is a lot of rhetoric around the quality of jobs on the market, it is evident from our own data that many of the roles on offer are high quality, sustainable jobs, and the fierce demand for skills is putting upward pressure on salaries and benefits.”

“Employers can take confidence from today’s figures. Until Brexit brings about any material changes, any pre-emptive hiring freezes on account of Britain’s exit from the EU are being made with a certain amount of guesswork. For this reason, employers may well want to remain optimistic and continue as they are doing.”

Geoff Lawrence, director at Vistage UK, commented, “Historically, low levels of unemployment have been good news for employers and job seekers alike. But mixed with the cocktail of the wider economic landscape that we’re currently faced with, it’s actually making recruitment and retention of employees a huge challenge for UK businesses. Our recent research has shown that this is one of their biggest concerns, a problem which we think will continue to grow for several years to come."

Jason Downes, MD of, stated, "The UK unemployment growth in June to August was mainly down to more women in work, but earnings are not keeping up with inflation. the number of people in work increased and the number of people unemployed fell. The job market is continuing to go from strength to strength. This is really positive for businesses and their confidence in hiring is growing. I hope to see this trend continue well into the final quarter of 2017 as we prepare for Brexit to take effect. I think we all need to continue to employ smarter working policies including flexible and remote working in order to remain competitive and give our employees a better work-life balance."

Kathleen Brooks, research director at, added, “The UK’s employment report for September came in roughly in line, which is why, after an initial spike higher, the pound is roughly back to where it was prior to the release. There was a slight tick higher in the wage data, which rose from 2.1% to 2.2%, however, this is more than offset by the sharp rise in inflation last month. Thus, for yet another month UK real wages remain mired in negative territory.”

Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of CV-Library, commented, “The latest figures from the ONS indicate that average weekly earnings for employees in real terms fell by 0.3%. Despite this, our own Q3 data (covering the period of July-September 2017), found that average salaries had actually increased in many of the UK’s key cities, including Aberdeen (21.2%), Bristol (7.5%), Cardiff (3.5%) and Edinburgh (3.9%). It’s evident that businesses are working hard to offer the best possible packages, but with weekly earnings dropping, application rates could soon be affected.

“That said, it’s positive to see that employment rates are continuing to rise steadily and that businesses across the nation are showing resilience in the face of ongoing uncertainty. In fact, our Q3 data confirms that the UK experienced a ‘job boom’ in the last quarter, with vacancies increasing by 12.2% year-on-year. It’s clear that employers are feeling confident and continuing to drive their recruitment efforts, and we hope to see this confidence catch on as unemployment rates continue to fall.” 

Mariano Mamertino, EMEA economist at the global job site, Indeed, said, “While Britain’s job creation juggernaut continues to rumble on, its pace is slowing as the country closes in on full employment.

“Such a tight labour market has shifted the strain from jobseekers to recruiters - who are increasingly struggling to hire the staff they need to grow.

“Ordinarily employers would ramp up salaries in order to compete in the war for talent - but such anaemic wage growth figures show this just isn’t happening.

“With the gap between wage and price rises steadily turning into a gulf, ever more workers are seeing their living standards be steadily eroded.

“With consumer prices now rising at 3% a year, real wages are set to fall faster and harder. The resulting pain for workers will soon translate into reduced consumer spending and could morph into a serious threat for the economy.

“While Britain’s unemployment success story means more people are in work than ever before, it is increasingly looking like a distraction from the clear and present danger posed by falling real wages.”

Ian Brinkley, acting chief economist at the CIPD, stated, “The latest figures again show the subdued pay outlook across the economy, with a 2.2% increase continuing to lag behind inflation. With no end in sight to this squeeze on living standards, many workers will be facing a Christmas period where they will once again be required to tighten their belts. There is little to suggest that wages are responding to low unemployment and higher inflation.

“While the headline employment figure remains strong, there are some signs that the UK labour market may be slowing down in terms of job creation. The rise in employment is mostly down to part-time self-employment, which suggests much of the increase is around marginal work and an increase in temporary jobs. We will have to wait and see if this initial sign becomes a trend, but if it does the UK economy faces a potentially potent mix of falling pay and a stagnant labour market.”

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