UK employment at highest level since 1971, ONS reveals

Employment in the UK has grown as the number of people in work has reached at the highest levels since records began in 1971.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) for July to September 2015 found there were 31.21 million people in work, 177,000 more than for April to June 2015 and 419,000 more than for the same quarter of 2014.

Comparing July to September 2015 with a year earlier, pay increased by 3 per cent (including bonuses) and by 2.5 per cent excluding bonuses.

While the number of people in work increased by 177,000, the total hours worked fell by 1.2 million in the three months to September 2015 compared with the three months to June 2015.

Gerwyn Davies, labour market analyst at the CIPD, said: “Harsh critics might point out that a relatively large proportion of the jobs are part-time. However, this follows a period of strong growth in full-time employment.

“Against the backdrop of its net migration target and the EU debate, the only potential worry for the government perversely is the sharp increase in the number of non-UK nationals in employment.”

The ONS figures show that year-on-year non-UK nationals working in the UK increased by 326,000 to 3.22 million. By comparison, UK nationals working in the UK increased by 122,000 to 28.09 million. The ONS attributed the increase to the admission of several new member states to the EU.

Davies said the figures should be celebrated. “CIPD research shows that employers have headed off the threat from skills shortages by hiring more young people, upskilling the existing workforce and turning to migrant workers.

“This may explain why pay pressures have not increased, which has supported stronger employment growth and eased any pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates at a time when the global economy is showing signs of cooling down.”

The ONS also found that for July to September 2015, the unemployment rate for 16 to 24 year olds was 14.2 per cent, which was lower than for April to June 2015 (16 per cent) and lower than a year earlier (16.2 per cent).

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The further fall in youth unemployment is good news but it is still almost three times the national average. Our recent Business and Education Survey highlighted ways to address this very issue, including reforming schools careers advice to put employer engagement at the heart of it, and embedding the soft skills employers value within the school curriculum.”

Others warned that real wage growth had slowed over the summer. Real average weekly earnings grew by 2.5 per cent in the three months to September, down from 2.8 per cent on the previous quarter.

Matt Whittaker, chief economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “It is encouraging to see employment rising again after a bumpy few months. But the slowdown in the pace of the UK’s pay recovery may signal that the rebound enjoyed during much of 2015 has eased.”


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