Unemployment down slightly, but employers worried about the future

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Unemployment fell slightly between 2017 and 2018, down from 4.6% to 4.2%, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The figures are based on estimates for the February-April period and show  average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain, adjusted for inflation, increased by 0.4% excluding bonuses, and by 0.1% including bonuses, compared with a year earlier.

The figures show 80% of men and 71.3% of women are in work. For men the biggest rise was in full-time jobs while part-time jobs accounted for the majority of extra jobs for women.

The number of employees increased by 473,000 to 27.42 million (84.7% of all people in work) and self-employed people increased by 9,000 to 4.81 million (14.9% of all people in work).

Most new jobs were in the private sector. Between March 2017 and March 2018, public sector employment fell by 102,000 and private sector employment increased by 542,000.

Hours worked in full-time jobs fell slightly and rose for part-time jobs. People worked, on average, 31.8 hours per week, 0.3 hours fewer than for November 2017 to January 2018, 0.4 hours fewer than for a year earlier and the lowest since September to November 2012. People working full-time worked, on average, 36.9 hours per week in their main job, 0.4 hours fewer than for November 2017 to January 2018, 0.6 hours fewer than for a year earlier and the lowest since April to June 2011. However, people working part-time worked, on average, 16.4 hours per week in their main job, 0.2 hours more than for November 2017 to January 2018 and for a year earlier.

State of the economy

Meanwhile, a new report from Manpower has warned that the outlook for jobs in the UK’s business and financial services sector has fallen to a nine-year low, raising the possibilities of redundancies in the summer. Manpower’s data shows a net employment outlook for the third quarter of this year of -1%, the first negative outcome in almost a decade. James Hick, managing director at Manpower Group Enterprise, said: “As the UK is a global centre for financial and professional services, if the sector’s shrinking it’s not good news for UK plc. While financial services only employ 3.5% of workers, it generates about 11% of government tax receipts.”

He pinned some of the blame on structural changes in the sector, including greater use of automation in banking, leading to branch closures and job losses. The survey predicts falling hiring confidence generally due to economic uncertainty, but says export manufacturers are doing well due to the drop in the value of the pound.

A separate survey by City & Guilds Group found that nine out of 10 UK employers said that they were struggling to recruit skilled staff, with Brexit topping the list of concerns.

And a survey of 500 micro businesses by accountants FreelAgent found 66% believed that Brexit would have a negative impact on the economy – while just 13% said they thought it would have a positive impact.  The survey also showed 60% of respondents said they would be in favour of holding a second Brexit referendum, compared to just 26% who said they would oppose such a move.





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