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Employment rate falls to 75.9%

The UK labour market has showed signs of slowing, with employment falling by 56,000 to 32.69 million in the three months to August 2019. Compared with the three months to May 2019, to 32.69 million. This was the first quarterly decrease since the three months to October 2017.

The UK employment rate was estimated at 75.9%, higher than a year earlier (75.6%) but 0.2 percentage points lower than the previous quarter.

The number of unemployed people in the UK aged 16 years and older increased by 22,000 to 1.31 million in the three months to August 2019. Although the most recent figures indicate a slight increase in unemployment, the rate is still low by historical standards.

The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.9%, this is lower than a year earlier (4.0%) but 0.1 percentage points higher than the previous quarter.

The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 21.0%, this is lower than a year earlier (21.2%) but 0.1 percentage points higher on the previous quarter.

Tom Hadley, director of policy and campaigns at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, stated, “Our prosperity depends on businesses creating jobs and opportunities for people to progress through work. Employment is still high, underlining the fundamental resilience of our jobs market. However, today’s figures flag some warning signs as Brexit uncertainty bites.

REC data shows that employer confidence in the economy is at a low-point, with businesses rolling back investment plans. This is reflected in declining vacancies and rising unemployment.

“Even now there’s time to rule out a no-deal Brexit and help businesses create jobs and strengthen our economy. For business to succeed we need people to come to the UK and contribute their skills at every level, especially in hospitality, logistics, and healthcare. Immigration policy must be based on what businesses need. We must ensure that measures are taken now to maintain both demand and supply.”

Pawel Adrjan, UK economist at Indeed, commented, “The momentum in the jobs market may finally have run out. In of themselves, both the rise in the unemployment rate and the fall in the employment rate are minor. But taken together, recent trends reveal a labour market which could be past peak employment - and at risk of losing its way as the broader economic outlook is still uncertain. The total number of vacancies has dipped a touch, but the saving grace is that the pace of wage growth remains relatively brisk as employers continue to jostle for recruits.

“That at least suggests conventional rules still apply. The labour market is tight, meaning competition between employers is forcing them to increase wages in order to lure staff. This is not yet a red light moment, but the continued fall in the number of vacancies hints at caution among some recruiters. The investment-sapping uncertainty of Brexit has taken a steady toll on business confidence. For now the labour market has remained relatively immune, but that privileged position should not be taken for granted.”

Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library, said, “As we approach the 31st with no real idea or plan regarding our departure from the European Union, uncertainty is starting to take its toll on the job market. Indeed, the statistics released this morning by ​the ONS reveal that employment has weakened on the quarter, with 56,000 less people in work. What's more, the economic inactivity rate has also risen ​since the previous quarter, ​suggesting more job seekers are opting to stay put until Brexit is sorted.   

“It's likely that this trend will continue, especially after hopes for greater clarity regarding Brexit were dashed yesterday following the Queen's speech. The prospect of an uncertain future is forcing undue pressure on the UK's economy, and it certainly won't relinquish until the government's intentions are made clear."

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