Unemployment falls to 4.9%

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Unemployment fell to 4.9% between April and June this year, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The statistics show there were 23.22 million people working full-time, 374,000 more than for a year earlier. There were 8.53 million people working part-time, 231,000 more than for a year earlier.

Some 79.4% of men and 69.6% of women aged from 16 to 64 were in work. The employment rate for men (79.4%) was higher than for a year earlier (78.2%). The rate for women (69.6%) was the joint 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 unemployment rate was 4.9%, down from 5.6% for a year earlier. The last time it was lower was for July to September 2005.  The number of employees increased by 354,000 to 26.76 million. The number of self-employed people increased by 257,000 to 4.79 million, representing 15.1% of all people in work.

Average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain increased by 2.4% including bonuses and by 2.3% excluding bonuses compared with a year earlier.

Anna Leach, CBI Head of Economic Analysis and Surveys, said: “Ahead of Britain’s vote to leave the EU, the UK’s jobs market remained in rude health, though vacancies have continued to tick down since the beginning of the year.

“The Bank of England was right to act swiftly to shore up confidence and keep money flowing through the economy. But businesses now need the Government to make ambitious decisions in the Autumn Statement that will secure the UK’s economic future as changes to trade, regulation and access to skills loom on the horizon.”

Nigel Meager, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said: “The latest labour market statistics from ONS largely cover the period up to the end of June, and do not yet incorporate any potential impact from the referendum result.

‘The figures are, in fact, very good, and show that the UK labour market entered the period of Brexit-induced uncertainty in pretty robust health. Unemployment (on the official indicator and the claimant count indicator) is down again, as is economic inactivity. The employment rate stands at a record high. Yet again the bulk of the most recent increase is due to further growth in self-employment (rapidly approaching five million), while total hours worked in the economy also rose. However, booming self-employment and longer working hours, when set against flat GDP data, continue to raise concerns about the UK’s labour productivity performance.”

He added that the ONS data also show that the number of non-UK nationals working in the UK increased quite sharply by 242,000 in the year to June. It now stands at 3.45m. He said some sectors may be particularly vulnerable in terms of skills shortages post-Brexit.  Recent IES research looking at NHS nurses has suggested that many NHS Trusts in London and the South-East are reliant on non-UK, EU-born nurses at a time when demand for healthcare is rising. Other sectors such as agriculture, construction and hospitality may be similarly vulnerable, he added.

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