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Unemployment has fallen to 4.3%, with the rising number of people in employment mainly due to more women working full time, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
The ONS says 79.5% of men aged from 16 to 64 were in work; up from 79.2% for a year earlier while 70.6% of women aged from 16 to 64 were in work, up from 69.7% for a year earlier. It says the increase in the employment rate for women was 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 ONS says the annual increase in the number of people in employment (279,000) was mainly due to more women in full-time employment. The number of women working part time has fallen slightly.
In the last year the biggest increase has come from employment rather than self employment. The number of employees has increased by 272,000 to 27.07 million (accounting for 84.5% of all people in work) while the number of self-employed people increased by 25,000 to 4.81 million (15% of all people in work).
Meanwhile, the ONS says earnings, excluding bonuses, rose 2.2% in the three months to September compared with 2.3% a year ago, lagging behind the cost of living.
Nigel Meager, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, expressed concern about a fall in total employment, total hours worked and unfilled vacancies on the previous quarter and said he expected unemployment to start drifting up in the next few months.
He said: “It is notable that the other main indicator of worklessness in the working-age population (economic inactivity) has been increasing recently to 21.6 per cent. Indeed, today’s statistics release shows the largest quarterly increase in economic inactivity since the three months to January 2010. While it is early days, and the next few months’ statistics will be needed to confirm this, these data certainly raise the question of whether the long and sustained recent labour market boom is finally running out of steam.”