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Unemployment Fears at Five-Year High
August 15, 2019
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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.


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