Employment rate remains at 76.1%
In the three months to February 2019, the level of employment in the UK increased by 179,000 to a record high of 32.72 million people. The increase was driven by the number of women entering employment, with female employment increasing by 142,000 in the three months to February 2019 to a record high of 15.41 million. Over the same period, the number of employed men increased by 37,000 to 17.31 million.
The overall employment rate increased by 0.4 percentage points to 76.1%. The employment rates for men and women increased by 0.2 and 0.6 percentage points to 80.5% and 71.8% respectively.
In the three months to February 2019, the number of employees reached a record high of 27.71 million. The number of employees increased by 179,000 on the quarter and by 369,000 on the year. More women (173,000) than men (6,000) became employees.
In the three months to February 2019, the number of unemployed people in the UK decreased by 27,000 to 1.34 million. The unemployment rate decreased by 0.1 percentage points on the quarter to 3.9%.
Actual weekly hours worked increased by 12.8 million to a record high of 1,052.9 million hours in the three months to February 2019. The UK’s youth unemployment rate is lower than the EU28 average, but it is higher than that of Germany.
In the three months to February 2019, the UK economy grew by 0.3%. The growth was driven by growth in the services sector (0.4%). In recent months the rate of inflation has been subsiding; in February 2019 the 12-month Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) rate of inflation was at 1.8%. Households, corporations and government continued to be net borrowers in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2018, borrowing or running down their savings to finance their spending and investment, financed by the rest of the world being a net lender to the UK.
The UK’s labour market has been performing well, with an employment rate of 76.1% in February 2019, and a historically low unemployment rate of 3.9% (which was lower than the Eurozone average), and an inactivity rate of 20.7%.
Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) chief executive, Neil Carberry, shared, “Today’s figures demonstrate the strength of the jobs market, which is a key UK success story. There are opportunities out there for job-seekers to move and take their careers to the next level.
“While progress on employment has slowed in the face of uncertainty about Brexit and slower global growth, our surveys show that firms are still experiencing shortages of key staff. This is a big risk to future growth.
“Recruiters are working with their clients to address shortages, playing a pivotal role for more and more firms as shortages bite. But businesses, recruiters and employees need Government to back them up. A strong start would be changing skills policy to help fill key shortage roles. Reforming the apprenticeship levy into something that can help temporary workers develop their careers is an essential part of this.”
Pawel Adrjan, UK economist at Indeed, commented, “With 457,000 more people in work than there were a year ago, one thing stands out amid the breathless pace of job creation; unlike some of the previous surges in employment, Britain’s current jobs boom was not made on the high street.
“In many parts of the country, the retail sector has been a passenger at best. Analysis of the hundreds of thousands of jobs listed on Indeed shows the retail industry’s share of vacancies has fallen steadily. In the first quarter of 2019, they accounted for just 1.7% of all jobs, down from 2.2% during the same period in 2017.
“Customer-facing retail jobs have been hardest hit as shopping patterns change, and more people do more of their shopping online. The areas where retail jobs are disappearing fastest are Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Lincolnshire, Bristol and Suffolk. At the other end of the scale, just five areas have experienced growth in the share of customer-facing retail vacancies: County Down and Country Antrim in Northern Ireland, West Lothian and Glasgow in Scotland and Swansea in Wales. The retail sector is the most visible and relatable sector of the economy, but this latest data shows its declining fortunes are hampering its ability to create jobs.”
CV-Library's founder and CEO, Lee Biggins, said, "Today's figures suggest that the job market remained robust in the run up to our supposed Brexit from the EU, which is positive news for our economy. That being said, we cannot ignore the fact that ongoing uncertainty means the UK is a much less desirable location for EU migrants to live and work in right now, putting pressure on businesses who are already struggling to find the home-grown talent they need to remain competitive on a global scale.
"Because of this, employers are having to pull out all the stops in order to entice professionals out of their current roles and this is reflected in the 3.4% increase in weekly earnings. Our own data echos this, finding that average page jumped up by 3.1% in January of this year and a staggering 30.2% in February, suggesting that organisations are desperately attempting to attract people to their jobs with the promise of better pay."
Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market analyst for the CIPD, added, “It’s not entirely clear why certain groups have benefitted from the extraordinary strong employment growth over the past year. Changing demographics is undoubtedly a factor, but another possibility is that employers are being forced to widen their recruitment channels and make work more accessible in response to the tightening labour market. Some of these groups are also more likely to have received more help and support from policymakers, through interventions such as more generous childcare support, as well as National Living Wage increases. Either way, the recent extraordinary strong growth in well-paid, permanent, full-time jobs suggests that many employers are shrugging off any concerns about the availability of skilled staff and any Brexit-related uncertainty.
“There is also evidence of labour shortages in sectors such as hospitality, which has more vacancies than other sectors, and construction which has seen higher wage growth than the economy as a whole. It’s no surprise therefore that earnings continue to outstrip inflation – which has dipped slightly to deliver more money into people’s pockets. However, disappointing productivity figures will hold back the economy’s ability to deliver sustained real earnings growth in the long-term.”
Tony Wilson, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), commented, “Even beneath these headlines, there are a swathe of other positive indicators. Full-time employment is up by nearly 150 thousand in the last three months. The number of people not looking for work and not available for work (the so-called ‘economically inactive’) is down over 100 thousand on three months ago - with the inactivity rate at its joint lowest (20.7%) and the number of those who want a job at its lowest ever (1.8 million). Vacancies remain close to record levels. And on earnings, both nominal pay and inflation-adjusted pay are higher than a year ago.
“However there are also some reasons to be cautious. Despite record employment, there are signs that people may be finding it harder to get the work that they want - with the number of part-time workers who want a full-time job up by 70 thousand (or nearly 10%) in the last three months. And on earnings, while pay has risen year-on-year, in recent months that growth has stalled - with both nominal and real terms pay broadly flat since the turn of the year. Whether this reflects short-term uncertainty over Brexit or a wider cooling down in the labour market should become clearer in the next few months.”
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