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Unemployment rate down to 3.8%

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that the UK unemployment rate dropped to 3.8% in January to March 2019 – it has not been lower since October to December 1974. There were an estimated 1.30 million unemployed people, 119,000 fewer than for a year earlier.

The UK employment rate was estimated at 76.1%, higher than for a year earlier (75.6%) and the joint-highest figure on record. 32.70 million people were in employment, 354,000 more than for a year earlier.

The number of vacancies was estimated at 846,000 for February to April 2019, 28,000 more than a year earlier but 15,000 fewer than for November 2018 to January 2019.

Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) director of policy and campaigns, Tom Hadley, said, “Today’s figures continue to show a thriving jobs market, with employment still at a record high and unemployment continuing to fall. The major challenge for employers is finding the right candidates, which is why recruitment professionals continue to work flat out to fill roles across all sectors of the economy.

“However, there are signs that employers are starting to be more cautious, as both these official statistics and Report on Jobs data show that vacancy numbers are starting to drop. This will need to be monitored but is also important to note that with 80 per cent of employers working at close to full capacity, according to REC data, any upturn in business confidence would lead to a further surge in demand for staff.

“Whilst today’s data is once again positive, we must focus on quality and well as quantity of work and boost progression opportunities for all. The UK’s £35.7 billion recruitment sector is committed to playing its role in creating a genuine ‘progression nation’, where all workers have an equal opportunity to develop skills and find good work.”

Rebecca Siciliano, managing director at Tiger Recruitment, commented, “The continued high employment level and record low unemployment reflect the inherent strength of the UK labour market and the UK business sector as a whole, despite Brexit uncertainty. The downside for employers is that a tightening labour market inevitably makes it harder to find the talent they need to grow.

“What we’re hearing from the market is that good candidates are still out there, however employers have to work that bit harder to attract them. That doesn’t just mean higher salaries but also looking at soft benefits such as flexible working, wellbeing policies and a positive company culture.

“With self-employment on the rise, employers also now have the freelance or contract career path to compete with, further highlighting the importance of offering flexibility, which is increasingly popular with candidates across all sectors. Only time will tell whether the latest IR35 reforms will have an impact on the number of self-employed workers.  

“The increase in women in the workplace is a highly positive development and, while likely impacted by the rise in the pension age, also reflects employers’ growing focus on diversity and family friendly policies in recent years.”

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