Unemployment at record low, but unchanged for over 50s

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Unemployment fell to 5.1% between September and November, its lowest rate since 2005, but average weekly earnings for employees rose by just 1.9% excluding bonuses compared with last year, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The figures show 79.0% of men and 69.1% of women aged from 16 to 64 were in work. The employment rate for men was slightly lower than before the downturn in 2008, but the employment rate for women is the highest since comparable records began in 1971, partly due to ongoing changes to the state pension age for women resulting in fewer women retiring between the ages of 60 and 65.

The number people who are employed increased by 521,000 to 26.59 million and the number who are self employed rose by 98,000 to 4.62 million.

Mark Beatson, Chief Economist at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, pointed out that while unemployment has fallen fastest among the 18-24 age group, it has not fallen over the past year among the over-50s.  He said: “This is partly because of increasing numbers of people in this age group, but it is also a reminder that older workers can find it especially difficult to find another job if they become unemployed. As the working population ages, it’s important that employers change their approach to workforce planning and open up their recruitment systems to much more diverse talent pools, as groups such as the over-50s can often bring as many unique skills and experience as those under 25. If we are to balance out employment at either end of the age spectrum, we need to see much greater efforts from government to ensure that those who want to keep working over the age of 50 have every chance to do so.”

Matthew Fell, CBI Chief of Staff, stated: “The labour market continues to be a bright spot for the UK economy, reflecting strong domestic demand and the importance of maintaining flexibility. However, global risks are ramping up, so there’s no room for complacency.

“While employment has continued to rise strongly, with the largest increase for almost 18 months, private sector pay growth has continued to slow, underlining the need for a sustained recovery in productivity.”

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