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UK Unemployment Falls to Lowest Level Since 1975
December 19, 2019

UK unemployment fell to its lowest level since January 1975 in the three months to October this year.

The number of people out of work fell by 13,000 to 1.281 million, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show.

Office block with workers visible through the windows

The employment rate rose to an all-time high of 76.2%, with an increase of 24,000 taking the number of people in work up to a total of 32.8 million.

However, annual wage growth, excluding bonuses, slowed to 3.5% from 3.6% from July to September.

ONS head of labour market David Freeman said: “While the estimate of the employment rate nudged up in the most recent quarter, the longer-term picture has seen it broadly flat over the last few quarters. However, unemployment among women has reached a new record low.

“Vacancies have fallen for 10 months in a row and are now below 800,000 for the first time in over two years.

“Pay is still increasing in real terms, but its growth rate has slowed in the last few months.” 

Unemployment graph

There were an estimated 794,000 vacancies in the UK for September to November 2019. That is 20,000 fewer than in the last quarter and 59,000 fewer than a year earlier.

The estimated employment rate for men was 80.4% and for women was 72%.

The increase in women’s employment in recent years is partly a result of changes to their State Pension age, which has meant fewer retiring between the ages of 60 and 65.

The slight slowdown in wage growth is party caused by the fact that in October 2018, some unusually high bonuses were paid to some workers. Bonuses given this October returned to more expected levels.

For October 2019, average regular pay, before tax and other deductions, was estimated at £509.68 per week.

Real wages graph

Chancellor Sajid Javid said: “There’s talent up and down this country – three-quarters of employment growth in the last year has been outside London and the South East.

“I’m looking forward to getting Brexit done and unleashing Britain’s potential, levelling up opportunity across the country.”

Tej Parikh, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said: “The UK’s jobs boom continues to be a big plus point for the economy, but it is slowly losing momentum. 

“Businesses have shown a strong appetite to take on staff in recent years, and climbing employment levels have boosted household incomes, adding buoyancy to the economy. However, firms are now cutting back on new hires as it becomes harder to find the skills they need. 

“Uncertainty and slowing global growth have also made businesses a bit more cautious in their recruitment plans, and vacancies are expected to continue falling into 2020.”

Presentational grey line
Analysis box by Robert Cuffe, Head of statistics

Employment is at a record high and unemployment at a record low in October’s figures, but the Office for National Statistics says that both are broadly flat. 

How can that be true? 

These records involve the kind of tiny changes we’re used to seeing with new records in the 100-metre sprint. 

Employment’s previous record high was January’s figure of 76.13%. 

October’s estimate is 76.15%: an improvement of 0.02 percentage points. 

Vacancies graph

For unemployment, the record has gone down from 3.797% in May to 3.757% in October’s figures – a change of 0.04 percentage points. 

So the estimates haven’t been better in a long time, but the improvements are tiny and certainly smaller than the margin of error in any figures like these. 

Coupled with the substantial fall in job vacancies and a hint of slowing wage growth, the emerging picture is less of rampaging record highs and more of decelerating demand for new workers.

Unemployment Fears at Five-Year High
August 15, 2019

People in the UK are more worried about losing their jobs today than they have been at any point over the past five and a half years, according to the latest figures from the ONS.

The Personal and economic well-being in the UK: August 2019 report, released 12 August, found that confidence in job security is low. People’s expectations for increasing joblessness have been climbing, with the net proportion of people expecting rising unemployment rates in the year ahead reaching 23.1% in the first quarter of 2019, the highest level since the second quarter of 2013. These growing fears come despite UK employment currently standing at the joint-highest rate on record (76.1%), according to the latest Labour market overview published today (13 August).

While all economic wellbeing measures improved in the first quarter of 2019, including household income and wealth, “people’s expectations for the economy for the year ahead are that it will worsen”, the ONS reported.

This falling confidence comes as concerns are mounting that the UK will leave the European Union without a deal, with prime minister Boris Johnson vowing to leave “come what may” by 31 October. Meanwhile separate ONS figures last week, showing that the UK has witnessed the first fall in quarterly GDP in six and a half years, have sparked concerns that the UK could be headed for a recession.

Amanda Mackenzie, chief executive of Business in the Community, said that economic and political uncertainty is causing UK employees to fear for their jobs.

“Prescient Brits have been expecting higher unemployment and for the general economic situation to deteriorate and, following last week’s negative GDP number, they may well be proved right,” she said.

“With a no-deal Brexit looming, the UK economy is arguably at its most crucial juncture for a decade and it’s no surprise people feel less secure about their jobs and the broader economic picture. In 10 weeks or so we could be entering the economic and political unknown and this uncertainty is understandably on people’s radars.”

The report also looked at personal wellbeing in the UK. Personal wellbeing showed very little change, with anxiety remaining stable in the year ending March 2019, the ONS said. The data found that almost one in five (19.8%) UK adults continued to report high levels of anxiety.

While people reported slightly higher happiness ratings, rising from 7.52 to 7.56 out of 10 in the last year, about 4.2 million people continued to report “low” levels of happiness.

Gail Kinman, professor of occupational health psychology at the University of Bedfordshire, told HR magazine that fears over employment and the economy are closely linked to personal wellbeing.

“Studies have found that job insecurity is one of the most profound and widespread workplace fears. It can be a major source of stress and anxiety for individuals and their families,” she said.

Unemployment Falls but Wage Inequality Rises Reports HR Magazine
May 16, 2019

While UK unemployment hits another record low, the TUC warns of wage inequality between sector

UK unemployment dropped to 3.8% in the first quarter of 2019, marking the lowest rate since 1974, according to the latest labour market statistics published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However, trade union the TUC has warned that wages and productivity remain low and wage inequality is on the rise. Its analysis of the latest ONS data found that wages in most sectors are still worth less than before the financial crisis, and overall real wages are still £17 a week lower than a decade ago.

Read more

Youth Unemployment Down 50% Since 2010
October 16, 2018

Official figures, released by the Office for National Statistics today, show that youth unemployment has halved since 2010.

The figures also show that the unemployment rate of 4.0% has not been lower since 1975. Real wages are up for the seventh month in a row, rising by 0.7% above inflation and employment remained high at 75.5%, up 0.4% points on the year.


The proportion of young people who are unemployed is at a new record low, as more than 120,000 more young people have a job than in 2010. At the same time, fewer children are now growing up in a home without any adults in work than ever before. There are 637,000 fewer children in this position than in 2010, helping inspire more young people into work themselves. Read more

New Employment Programme Begins in England and Wales
November 30, 2017

The government’s new Work and Health Programme to help disabled people into employment started this week in north west England and Wales.

The entire programme is expected to provide specialised support to around 245,000 people with disabilities or health conditions, and also people who have been unemployed for over 2 years.

Participants will get personal support to help them find sustained employment. The support may include:

  • identification of employment needs
  • matching skills to work that’s available
  • putting participants in touch with employers
  • managing health problems to reduce their impact on work

Read more

Unemployment Remains at 40-Year Low
November 16, 2017

Official figures show that unemployment has remained at 4.3%, the lowest rate since 1975.

The figures, released by the Office for National Statistics, also show that employment remains at a near record high, with 32 million people in work.

Increases in full-time and permanent work are behind the figures. In the last year the number of people on zero hours contracts has fallen by 20,000.

Minister for Employment, Damian Hinds said:

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Over 50s Experience Chronic Worklessness
November 14, 2017

Around 3.3 million people between the ages of 50 and 64 are not in work HR Magazine reports.

Employers and government need to “radically rethink” how to tackle chronic worklessness among the over 50s, according to a report from the Centre for Ageing Better.

The research estimates that 3.3 million people between the ages of 50 and 64 are not in work, with 29% recorded as ‘economically inactive,’ meaning they are not engaged in the labour market in any way. This is more than twice the rate of those aged 35-49 (13%).

Once out of work, people aged over 50 were found to struggle to get back into the labour market more than younger age groups. Some 38% of unemployed over 50s have been out of work for over a year, compared to 19% of 18- 24-year-olds.

Jemma Mouland, senior programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said employers need to look at how older workers are treated. “Our research finds that changes are needed at every level,” she said. “It is not a problem that national government or employment and skills services alone can fix. Poor health and caring responsibilities are some of the most common barriers experienced by older workers, so it is important that health and benefits systems are more joined up and focused on helping those over 50 stay in work, or get back into employment. Read more

Quarter of Employers Could lose EU staff this year
August 25, 2017

Sectors that rely on EU labour already facing ‘significant recruitment challenges’, finds CIPD report.

More than a quarter (27 per cent) of employers have seen evidence that suggests EU nationals in their organisations are considering leaving the company, or the UK, in 2017, according to a new report.

The latest Labour Market Outlook (LMO) from the CIPD and the Adecco Group also found that employers are struggling to fill the nearly 750,000 vacancies in the UK labour market because of a lack of suitable labour and skills.

ONS data from January shows low-skilled sectors that normally employ a large number of non-UK EU nationals – such as retail, manufacturing, health and hospitality – account for almost half (45 per cent) of all vacancies.

The public sector is likely to be hit hard; 43 per cent of education employers and 49 per cent of healthcare employers said they believe EU staff were considering leaving their organisation and/or the UK in 2017.

The LMO, which surveyed more than 1,000 employers, found the most common response to labour shortages was to leave vacancies empty.

ONS non-seasonally adjusted data showed that the number of non-UK EU nationals decreased by almost half from an average of more than 60,000 per quarter in the nine months to June 2016, to 30,000 in the three months to September 2016.

“There has been a significant slowdown in the number of non-UK nationals from the European Union in work in the UK,” said Gerwyn Davies, labour market adviser at the CIPD. “This is creating significant recruitment challenges in sectors that have historically relied on non-UK labour to fill roles and which are particularly vulnerable to the prospect of future changes to EU immigration policy.”

But more than a quarter (27 per cent) of organisations surveyed that employ EU nationals said they were unsure how many EU nationals they actually employed.

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