Unemployment falls, but job vacancies rise

Unemployment is down, but the skills shortage is growing, according to new figures.

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Unemployment fell again between December and February and the number of vacancies continues to rise, with employers facing increasing difficulties filling roles.

The Office for National Statistics puts unemployment at an estimated 3.9% and says estimated number of vacancies in the UK have been rising steadily since 2012. For January to March 2019 there were an estimated 852,000 vacancies in the UK, 32,000 more than a year earlier.

The increase in employment was due almost entirely to people taking full-time jobs. Over half of all people in employment usually work between 31 and 45 hours per week, according to the ONS, with just under 20% working more than 45 hours a week. However, the figures show the number of part-time workers who want a full-time job has also risen by 70 thousand (or nearly 10%) in the same period.

Self employment is also up. There are estimated to be 4.83 million self-employed people (14.8% of all people in employment), 76,000 more than a year earlier, says the ONS.

The number of people who are not economically active has fallen to 20.7%, the joint-lowest figure since comparable records began in 1971, with a big fall in the number of women looking after home and family being the main reason.

Wages have risen above inflation. Excluding bonuses, average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain were estimated to have increased by 3.4%, before adjusting for inflation, and by 1.5%, after adjusting for inflation, compared with a year earlier. Including bonuses, average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain were estimated to have increased by 3.5%, before adjusting for inflation, and by 1.6%, after adjusting for inflation, compared with a year earlier.

The ONS also issued figures on fertility which show the number of pregnancies among women aged 30 and over in England and Wales has overtaken the number among women in their 20s for the first time since records began. The figures also show the number of pregnancies for women over 40 has more than doubled since 1990. The ONS says this trend has been driven by women spending more time in education and work and by the rising costs of having children.



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