Unemployment has fallen to 5.8%, although the speed of the decline is slowing, according to the latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics.
The figures show there were 37,000 more people in work between September and November than for June to August 2014, the smallest quarterly increase since March to May 2013. Part of this was due to a rise in the number who were out of work and not seeking or available for work, which includes stay at home mums and dads – up from 22.2% in June to August to 22.4%.
The ONS says pay has increased in the last year by 1.7% including bonuses and by 1.8% excluding bonuses.
The figures show a drop of 26,000 in the number of men who were unemployed, compared to 31,000 in the number of unemployed women, although more men are actually unemployed than women. The number of people who were unemployed for up to six months fell by 14%, by 20.3% for those unemployed for six to 12 months and by 22% for those unemployed for over a year.
Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: “It’s good to see that employment has risen again, albeit at a slower rate than over the last few quarters.
“Pay edged up faster than inflation, but overall pay growth remains low. Productivity will need to improve significantly before pay can rise faster.
“There’s also more to do for young people – while unemployment fell overall, the number of 16-24 year-olds out of work and not in education has increased substantially this quarter.”
Mark Beatson, chief economist for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, stated: “This set of statistics raises more questions than most about the direction of the economy. Employment growth in the three months September-November 2014 was 37,000, compared with 243,000 just six months previously, so there is some easing of jobs growth. This is consistent with the unfilled vacancies figures, which reached the 700,000 mark in the three months October-December. Vacancies are at their highest level since this series was first calculated, in 2001, but again the rate of growth is slower than last spring and summer.
“This suggests that a greater proportion of employers are facing difficulties filling vacancies compared with last year. In the face of a tightening labour market employers should look at how they can make better use of the skills and knowledge they already possess and whether they are maximising their potential to attract candidates. Investing in the future talent pipeline with clear progression paths is key to offsetting recruiting difficulties and will help to ease retention problems that are often ignored in the narrow debate about skills shortages.”
A report out this week suggests some of the falling unemployment statistics could be due to the government sanctions regime on Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants. According to researchers at the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine many of those sanction are dropping off the statistics but not returning to work. The sanctions are used to punish claimants who do not meet government conditions for actively seeking work and result in claimants having their benefit payments cut for a minimum of four weeks.