Unemployment falls to 7.1%

Unemployment fell to 7.1% between September and November, down 0.5% on figures for the preceding three months and boosted by a big rise in self-employment, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

They show the employment rate for men aged was 77.2% for September to November 2013, up 0.7 percentage points from June to August 2013. The corresponding employment rate for women was 67.1%, up 0.3 percentage points from June to August 2013.

The number of men working full-time increased by 127,000 to reach 13.99 million. The number of men working part-time increased by 49,000 to reach 2.17 million. The number of women working full-time increased by 94,000 to reach 8.06 million. The number of women working part-time increased by 10,000 to reach 5.94 million.

Between June to August 2013 and September to November 2013 the number of self-employed people increased by 147,000 to reach 4.36 million.

Between October to December 2012 and October to December 2013 total pay and regular pay rose by 0.9%.

Mark Beatson, Chief Economist at Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, said: “Looking beneath the headline figures, half of the last quarter’s employment growth was due to a sharp increase in self-employment.  The number of people who were working part-time because they could not find a full-time job has now started to fall.  And probably the best news of all is that we have seen noticeable falls in the number of young people unemployed and the number of people unemployed for over a year.

“Of course, employment growth of this scale suggests that we may find that the fourth quarter of 2013 saw little or no growth in labour productivity.  The weakness of productivity growth and the healthy state of the labour market explain why earnings growth remains below 1%, and these figures give little indication there will be any substantial movement in wage growth in the short term. Tackling our long-standing productivity problem requires policy makers, employers and trade unions to engage more closely with each other to find ways of stimulating investment, addressing long-term skill needs and making better use of the skills and talent already available in the workforce.”

Neil Carberry, CBI Director of Employment and Skills, said: “These figures show that our jobs market is working well, with unemployment dropping faster than in less flexible countries. It’s particularly encouraging to see so many people finding full-time jobs, with more people moving from part-time to full-time work, and an increase in young people finding jobs as well.

“While the overall picture is very positive, productivity is still below recession levels and not growing, and sustainable increases in wages can only be linked to improved productivity.

“With private sector wages only increasing at 1.2%, a substantially higher rise in the national minimum wage is unlikely to be affordable for many businesses in 2014.“

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