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Unemployment fell by 18,000 in the three months to August, with the number of full-time women rising and the number in part-time work falling, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
Compared to the previous quarter, the number of people in employment increased by 155,000 (to reach 29.87 million), the number of unemployed people fell by 18,000 (to reach 2.49 million) and the number of people not in the labour force aged from 16 to 64 fell by 83,000 (to reach 8.95 million).
The number of men in full-time employment increased by 69,000 (to reach 13.86 million) and the number of women in full-time employment increased by 79,000 (to reach 7.96 million). The number of men in part-time employment increased by 21,000 (to reach 2.12 million), but the number of women in part-time employment fell by 13,000 (to reach 5.93 million).
However, the ONS says the percentage of people aged from 16 to 64 who were in work for June to August 2013 (the employment rate) was 71.7%, which is lower than before the 2008-09 downturn. In March to May 2008 the employment rate peaked at 73.0%. It then fell, as the economic downturn impacted on the labour market, and it reached a trough of 70.2% for July to September 2011 before recovering to reach 71.7% for June to August 2013.
The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) fell by 41,700 between August and September to reach 1.35 million and, over the year, was down 214,500. The number of JSA claimants is the lowest since January 2009. For September 2013 there were 879,000 men and 472,100 women claiming JSA.
Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development Chief Economist Mark Beatson said: “Today’s headline figures continue the pattern of recent months. Increased confidence in economic growth is feeding through to the labour market. Recruitment is up and the official number of vacancies is at its highest level since the autumn of 2008. The number of people employed grew by 155,000 in the last quarter yet there is no sign yet of increased demand leading to higher wages across the board- indeed, average earnings in August were unchanged from the previous month and the annual growth rate for the last three months is just 0.7%, two percentage points below the current rate of inflation.
“However, the number of people unemployed on the headline measure is hardly moving at the moment. In part this is because the population is growing. The number of people who are inactive has also fallen again, which increases the labour supply, and there are now 63,000 less people inactive because of long-term sickness than there were a year ago. But unemployment does appear to be on the way down; the headline measure is moving very slowly whereas the claimant count fell by 120,000 between June and September.
“Hopefully, some of this difference might be timing – the claimant count is more up to date than the headline measure. But youth unemployment remains stubbornly high, and long term unemployment has only just begun to fall, so there is a real need to step up efforts to ensure our young and long term unemployed aren’t left out of the labour market recovery. Employers and government both recognise this. But the need for greater urgency was emphasised by last week’s OECD Skills Survey, which reminded us that the UK needs to raise its skill levels across the board to remain competitive – especially for those with weaknesses in literacy and numeracy. These are long-term problems that will not be solved by economic growth alone, but instead threaten to act as a major brake on future long-term growth.”
The ONS has also just published statistics on birth rates which show that the age women give birth is continuing to rise. Nearly half of all live births in 2012 were to mothers aged 30 and over and the average age for all births was 29.8 years, with 28.1 years old being the average age for first births. Nearly two thirds of dads were aged 30 and over.