UK employment rates hit a new record

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The FINANCIAL — The number of people in work in the UK increased by 180,000 to 32.93 million in the quarter, as the number of people deemed economically inactive also shrank. Women were the main driver of the rise in employment.

Weekly pay hit a new record high in December as Britain’s jobs boom continued, with earnings finally climbing back above the level reached 13 years ago before the financial crisis struck. The average worker was paid £512 a week at the end of 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). After stripping out inflation, this is 35p more than a previous peak in August 2007. It means a wage slump following the near-collapse of the world’s banking system in 2008 has finally been overcome according to The Telegraph.

UK employment jumped to a record high in the three months to December as more women entered employment, new figures reveal. However, the increase in employment came as wage growth continued to stall over the period. More women became self-employed during the quarter, the ONS said, as the proportion of women who are self-employed hit a record high. Employment Minister Mims Davies said: ‘As we embark on a new chapter as an independent nation outside the EU, we do so with a record-breaking jobs market and business confidence on the rise.” Economists had forecast wage growth of 3 per cent for the month, Daily Mail reported.

The number of people out of work dropped by 16,000 to 1.290 million, the ONS data showed. The unemployment rate of 3.8% remained at its joint lowest level since early 1975. Signs of weakness in the labour market in the autumn – when Britain faced deep uncertainty about Brexit and the outcome of a polarising national election – prompted two Bank of England interest-rate setters to vote for a cut to borrowing costs. Many employers fear that Brexit-related uncertainty will return in 2020 as Johnson has ruled out extending a transition period with the European Union beyond the end of the year, saying he will clinch a free trade deal with the bloc by then, Reuters wrote.

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The employment rate, the share of working-age people in work, rose to 76.5 per cent, the highest since records began in 1971. The number of vacancies reversed an almost uninterrupted decline since February 2019 and increased by 12,000 in the three months to January compared with the three months period to November — the first rise in a year. After adjusting for inflation, average earnings for total pay excluding bonuses grew 1.8 per cent, unchanged from the previous quarter, but enough to lift the level above the pre-financial crisis peak for the first time in more than a decade, as reported by Financial Times.

In a significant moment after a lost decade for British workers, the Office for National Statistics said average weekly earnings, excluding bonuses, have reached a fresh peak in real terms. This means pay packets adjusted for inflation are worth more than they were before the 2008 crisis – although only just. However, in a reflection of the precarious working conditions facing people across the country, the number of people on zero-hours contracts reached a high of 974,000 last year. According to the latest snapshot, around 100,000 more women were on zero-hours contracts compared with a year ago, and a third of all of these contracts were young people aged 16 to 24, according to The Guardian.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics showed the number of women in employment increased again – this time by 150,000 in the three months to December to a record high of 15.61 million. Myrto Miltiadou, of the ONS, said: “In real terms, regular earnings have finally risen above the level seen in early 2008, but pay including bonuses is still below its pre-downturn peak,” BBC.

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