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Unemployment rate remains at 3.8%

The latest ONS data shows that the UK employment rate was estimated at 76.1%, higher than a year earlier (75.6%) and the joint-highest on record.

Estimates for February to April 2019 show 32.75m people aged 16 years and over in employment, 357,000 more than for a year earlier. This annual increase of 357,000 was due entirely to more people working full-time (up 402,000 on the year to reach 24.15m). Part-time working showed a fall of 45,000 on the year to reach 8.60m.

The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.8%; it has not been lower since October to December 1974. For February to April 2019, an estimated 1.30 million people were unemployed, 112,000 fewer than a year earlier and 857,000 fewer than five years earlier.

The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 20.8%, lower than a year earlier (21.0%) and close to a record low. Estimates for February to April 2019 showed 8.58 million people aged from 16 to 64 years not in the labour force (economically inactive). 

Excluding bonuses, average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain were estimated to have increased by 3.4%, before adjusting for inflation, and by 1.5%, after adjusting for inflation, compared with a year earlier.

Including bonuses, average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain were estimated to have increased by 3.1%, before adjusting for inflation, and by 1.2%, after adjusting for inflation, compared with a year earlier.

Tom Hadley, director of policy and campaigns at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said, “This morning’s figures show a familiar picture, with the UK labour market stuck in the same holding pattern that we have seen for the past few months. The overall picture remains positive, but with a few warning signs, such as declining vacancies.

“Our jobs market continues to demonstrate how robust it is, and continues to provide good work for more people than ever before with employment at a joint-record high and economic inactivity close to a record low.

“However, the fact that vacancy numbers are dropping is reflected in the REC’s Report on Jobs data, which shows a slight decline in permanent placements. At the same time, employers and recruiters are still struggling to find the staff to fill empty roles in sectors as diverse as healthcare, technology and logistics. Businesses are increasingly having to review current hiring procedures, as making the right hire at the right time can be crucial to maximising growth and productivity.”

Pawel Adrjan, UK economist at Indeed, commented, “After months of defying economic gravity, Britain’s jobs creation boom may be reaching a plateau.

“Despite yesterday’s woeful GDP figures, it’s far too soon to talk of a similar reversal of fortune in the labour market.

“In the seven years since the UK’s economic recovery began in earnest, employment has fallen on a quarterly basis no fewer than eight separate times. Not one of those blips altered the general upward trend.

“Whether this latest wobble is a sign of an economy hitting the ceiling of full employment or a side effect of Brexit uncertainty is pretty moot.

“The employment rate for women has never been higher, and the overall employment rate remains at a record high of 76.1%, meaning more people of working age are in a job than ever before.

“Yet despite all this progress, it’s telling how ingrained the gender pay gap remains, not just in reality but also in people’s ambitions. New research by Indeed has found that women’s peak career salary expectations are significantly lower than men’s. Women, on average, expect to earn £45,800 while men expect to earn £62,900 – a difference in expectations of £17,100.”

Ben Frost, solution architect EMEA at Korn Ferry, commented, "Today’s CIPD employment stats have once again confirmed strong employment growth up and down the country, which is great news for companies and employees. The challenge, however, remains in competing for the right staff with the right skills.

“Not all businesses are in the financial position to offer monetary rewards to attract and retain top talent. However, for the most part employees’ expectations have begun to shift and so money is no longer necessarily the most effective way of rewarding staff or appealing to new talent.

“Companies need to look at benefits beyond financial incentives in order to attract the best talent. From flexible working schemes for a better work-life balance, to robust career development programmes and creative working environments, employers need to communicate the benefits associated with their brand.

“With this change in focus, organisations are able to attract and retain the best talent and so combat the current skills shortage that is affecting many industries.”

Jon Boys, labour market economist for the CIPD, stated, “Encouragingly all the employment growth has come from full-time jobs suggesting that employers are shrugging off Brexit-related uncertainty, at least in relation to their hiring decisions. In tight labour market conditions workers are in a stronger position to demand the terms of their contracts with many pushing for full-time, permanent roles.

“There was also strong jobs growth in some of the highest and most skilled sectors including professional and scientific occupations, as well as IT. In further positive news, there is evidence the labour market is becoming more inclusive with an increase in the number of women and older workers finding work.

“Wage growth continues to outstrip inflation delivering more money to workers pockets. However, real pay – excluding bonuses - is still £5.70 a week lower than the pre-recession high. Some have benefitted more than others. The data covers bonus season and construction bonuses increased by 17.1% delivering above average total pay at 4.4%, whilst those workers in retail and hospitality experienced total pay growth of just 1%. Interestingly the number of vacancies in hospitality remain higher than for all sectors indicating skills shortages, but employers are reluctant to raise wages to bridge the gap.” 

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