Unemployment down by 5,000

The number of people who are unemployed fell by around 5,000 between February and April, with those in jobs including 33,000 women who had previously been economically inactive due to looking after their family or home, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The figures show a slight fall in the employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64, down 0.1 percentage points from November 2012 to January 2013. There were 29.76 million people in employment aged 16 and over, up 24,000 from November 2012 to January 2013.

However, the unemployment rate for February to April 2013 was 7.8%, unchanged from November 2012 to January 2013. There were 2.51 million unemployed people, down 5,000 from November 2012 to January 2013.

The employment rate was highest for those aged 35 to 49 at 81.9% and lowest for those aged 16 to 24, at 50.9%. For those aged 65 and over the employment rate stood at 9.5% and the number of people in work within this age group reached over one million for the first time, partly through more people staying on in work and more people of this age group in the population. The number of women who were economically inactive because they were looking after a family or home fell by 33,000.

The figures also show that total pay rose by 1.3% and regular pay rose by 0.9% in the last quarter. The number of self-employed people in the UK has risen to 4.2 million.

The number of people claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance in May fell by 8,600 on April’s figures to stand at 1.51 million and, over the year, was down 87,600. Two thirds of claimants were men.

Mark Beatson, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: “A stronger labour market suggests that the competition for talent that never went away entirely may be about to increase in intensity once again. Employers who want to steal a march on their competitors will need to be thinking hard about how they attract, retain and develop their workforces. With plenty of room for productivity growth, investment in skills and engagement may be a more profitable and sustainable strategy for attracting and retaining the best people than simply increasing pay.”

Institute for Employment Studies Director of Research, Jim Hillage, stated: “Today’s data from the Office of National Statistics show that the labour market continues to stagnate, with a small increase in the number of people in employment and a small fall in unemployment. However, beneath the doldrums, the long-term currents underpinning the labour market are moving and this month sees a further rise in the number of older people in employment that takes the total to over one million for the first time.

“Unemployment continues to be stuck at around 2.5 million, eight per cent of the labour force. Despite recent signs that the economy is starting to improve, unemployment show no signs of falling significantly in the near future. There is still a lot of slack in the labour market and it is clear that it will be a long time until the jobless total returns to pre-recession levels.

“Meanwhile, the total number of people in employment continues to reach record levels although the employment rate has actually fallen to 71.5%, again well below pre-recession levels, as the overall population increases. Yet some underlying structural changes in the labour market continue. Significantly, the number of employed people aged 65 or over has reached 1,003,000. While this reflects a welcome willingness among employers to recruit and retain experienced people, it may also reflect the need that some older people have to top up inadequate pension arrangements.”

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